Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cargo Handling Equipment

There is a bustle of cargo handling equipment activity in the yards and on the order books, and the drive for improved safety and developing more cost-effective, and environmentally friendly products is readily apparent.

BNSF’s Seattle International Gateway (SIG) Intermodal Facility, located just across the street from Safeco Field, is addressing going green with their electric rail-mounted gantry cranes which were first installed in the spring of 2007. “In the future, there will be more concerns over diesel particulate matter and other forms of emissions from fuel for that matter,” says John Hovland, BNSF director of marketing and facility development. “If you are going to construct something in California, the State of Washington or most anywhere else, you are going to have to consider electric cranes. The first ones we put in Seattle were the first foray into that.”

The cranes are about 153 feet across the length of the lifting beam and stand approximately 87 feet tall. Hovland says about 40 percent of the activities performed by the crane are braking-related which regenerates electricity during operation. When the cranes brake, the stopping action regenerates electricity, and when a container is lowered, that activity also creates energy that is put back into the grid.

Currently, there are four electric rail-mounted cranes manufactured by Konecranes working at the terminal with three railroad tracks under each, allowing more density in the facility. The cranes are cantilevered on one side, which enables stacking underneath them.

“These cranes have the capability of probably three if not four conventional cranes,” he adds. “They require a smaller carbon footprint because they have a very high stacking capacity. Seattle is a 14-acre near dock facility, and its capacity has been doubled with these cranes.”

BNSF is also mindful of safety for all workers. Hovland reports the newer cranes are built with technologies that make it very difficult for someone to get in harm’s way. Lasers shoot out from the front and the back of the crane down the track structure, and if any object breaks a laser beam, the crane will automatically stop without the intervention of the operator. Additionally, in the newest BNSF intermodal facility to use these cranes, each truck lane is equipped with red and green lights that indicate to truck drivers driving underneath a crane’s suspended load whether or not they can proceed.

The cranes at newer facilities are equipped with a GPS locator. “The computer in the crane communicates with a yard management computer which knows where each car is located based on the GPS location of the first car in a train,” explains Hovland. “As the crane moves throughout the facility the GPS tells the crane to go to the next spot so the operator doesn’t have to manually direct it to the proper location.”

Still, having skilled workers is critical. “We train them right on site. It is part of our scheduling process when we build a facility, we have all the infrastructure built and the cranes erected early enough that we can take the time to train our operators live in the facility.”

Straddle Expertise
“I think we are the most experienced straddle carrier operator, maybe in the world, but probably certainly in North America,” says Curt Stoner, Senior Manager for Container Business Development at the Port of Tacoma. “We’ve been doing it longer and more successfully than any other facility.”

Stoner says that as ports confront constrained capital and land, straddle carriers allow significant densification to container utilization on a terminal per acre. “They can allow you to increase your throughput volume and decrease your throughput cost on a reduced number of acres. That’s why if done well they can be such an attractive operational mode. However, they do not work well in a less than highly-developed container yard environment. Gravel and dirt just don’t mix with straddle carriers.”

The Port, whose container volumes increased 4.3 percent in April compared with April 2011, uses three-high strads. The Port owns 28 strads that serve several terminals and the North Intermodal Yard.

Stoner says in general, a good crane operator can accomplish 15 to 18 miles an hour, and this kind of output has certainly helped the Port maintain its excellent service history. “We are regularly able to have trains depart for their destination, be that Chicago, St. Paul, Minnesota or northern Ohio valley…fully loaded, ready to go, four to six hours after the last container for that train is discharged off the ship. There are times when it takes a little bit longer, but four hours is what one of the customers that we do business with expects and regularly gets.”

And it’s important to have skilled crane operators. “You have to have the folks who know how to drive and maintain them,” he says. “We are very fortunate here, at the Port of Tacoma that our ILWU longshore partners in transportation have those skills and that commitment."

When it comes to environmental concerns, Stoner says the Port elected to go with diesel-powered strads and retrofitted them to meet all of the latest emission standards. They are also currently looking at fleet renewal plans for the future and are evaluating the possibility of using electric/diesel as a hybrid alternative. “We are really excited about the way that the manufacturers are developing more environmentally-friendly systems, and we are very supportive of that and look forward to being able to operate zero emissions equipment in the future.”

Better Fuel Usage
In May, crane manufacturer Konecranes delivered six rubber tired gantry cranes to container terminal operator TCP Paranagua in Brazil, marking their third order and bringing the number of RTGs in TCP’s fleet to 16.

The cranes are expected to increase TCP’s container handling capacity to more than 30 percent, can stack over five containers high, and have a six plus truck lane wide. They are also equipped with active load control and fuel saver technology.

While the company continues to develop the latest in state-of-the-art and eco-efficient crane technologies, they also ensure that over 98 percent of the materials used to build their cranes can be recycled. “Our electric motors are energy-efficient and purpose made for cranes as well as Konecranes inverter technology is unequalled in lifting applications,” says Jost Dämmgen, Sales Manager of Port Cranes. “And increasingly, our equipment is electrically fed which reduces local emissions and enables it to re-feed regenerative energy to the grid.”

One of Konecranes’ newest products is the Smarter Cabin, available with the company’s straddle carriers, rubber tired gantry and rail mounted gantry container cranes. It is also available with their electrical overhead travelling (EOT) cranes that are delivered with a cabin.

The Smarter Cabin was developed after the company studied RTG, straddle carrier and EOT crane drivers’ habits and attitudes. It gives drivers improved visibility, with a window area increase of 60 percent, and improved comfort and climate controls.

Dämmgen reports that the company has secured a vast number of new orders in 2012; container handling crane orders have come in from all over the world, including Indonesia, Russia, Spain and the US.

“Customers are particularly cost-conscious and interested in energy-saving technologies,” says Dämmgen. “Our products combine the highest performance, lowest total cost of ownership and eco-efficiency to meet this demand.”

New Spreader Technology
RAM Spreaders, headquartered in Singapore with worldwide offices, is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and has just finished developing a new series of crane attachments. The Ram 3400, 3500 and 3900 ship-to-shore and RTG series have either fixed or electric-powered gather guides that help spreaders get down on the corner pins of containers to lock on.

“They reduce fuel costs on standard RTGs by about 15 percent,” says Martin Pilsch, Regional Manager for North America. “They also reduce the noise of the motors running to keep the hydraulics going as they are strictly an all-electric spreader.”

The company’s 2700 series mobile harbor crane spreaders is also becoming a popular product. “They are very versatile. Our spreader has been developed with a center post column that incorporates a lot of the functions including the storage of hydraulic oils,” says Pilsch. “We have everything centered in the middle of the spreader. The center post balances the container with two hydraulic cylinders and is much easier to use and is safer and easier to maintain.”

Pilsch also reports he is seeing a trend toward heavier cranes with greater capacity. To that end, RAM Spreaders has manufactured a single hoist dual headblock system, called the SingFlex Twin40 Headblock System for single hoist cranes, which he says is economical and saves weight on container cranes.

“SingFlex picks up two containers side-by-side utilizing a dual headblock via a single hoist,” he says. “The product can be incorporated into any terminal’s existing spreader and crane system, and it doesn’t take a lot of extensive modifications. We’ve just sold some in Europe and we are hoping to get the United States market to take note of this type of spreader system.”

RAM Spreader’s new Revolver product is a bulk materials loading attachment for any port dockside container crane. It attaches to a container with the bulk cargo inside, lifts it up, then rotates the container and places the cargo into the ship’s hold, taking the container back out and placing it on the dock.

“Revolver eliminates a lot of the dust issues as it removes the lids while it is placing the freight and puts the lid back on the container when finished. We also have a misting system that helps keep dust down,” says Pilsch. “In the case of the West Coast, it provides the potential for new bulk operations to start up in places like Long Beach and Los Angeles, where the environmental regulations are so stringent. With Revolver, you can be operating in six months instead of the years it would take to buy and install standard bulk equipment.”

The RAM PinSmart product, introduced a few years ago, continues to help improve safety on the docks. It automatically removes container locking pins by unlocking the twist lock, removing it and storing it in a bin. “These pins are very heavy, and workers can get lot of back and shoulder injuries. People have been killed underneath cranes by being run over by the trucks that move back and forth with the containers, and PinSmart eliminates a large part of that activity,” explains Pilsch. “It pays for itself in no time. PinSmart would return the investment just on the claims and injury costs alone.”