Big is beautiful

16 Jul 2008

Gottwald crane at Gangavaram

Demand for mobile harbour cranes for use in bulk handling has remained high in the first half of 2008. Felicity Landon reports

In bulk handling, the slogan "the bigger, the better" applies in spades, says Joachim Dobler, marketing manager at Liebherr - and that trend is continuing, as ports develop facilities to cope with larger vessels, at speed and with as much flexibility as possible.

Since the introduction of Liebherr's LHM 600 (maximum lift capacity 208 tonnes, outreach 58 metres) two years ago, all cranes of this type have been delivered in four-rope configuration for handling dry bulks, offering cheaper grab operations and higher turnover, says Mr Dobler.

"During recent years, the focus of improvements has been towards the large crane market, as this is where market pressures demanded. Having said that, Liebherr always believes the 'smaller' end of the market cannot be ignored, with up to 30% of annual sales falling into this region. 

"Like their big brothers, the smaller cranes now all feature technical upgrades that will save the customer money and make the crane a more environmentally friendly machine."

Liebherr divides its bulk cranes into two forms of grab operations: two-rope solutions using a motor grab, and four-rope solutions using a mechanical grab. The clear top-seller remains the four-rope version, which can achieve rates of 2,500 tonnes/hour depending on crane size, bulk material and working range. Another decisive factor regarding turnover is the size of the grab - Liebherr bulk cranes are able to handle mechanical grabs with a total weight up to 75 tonnes and motor grabs with an overall weight up to 90 tonnes.

Mr Dobler says that in sales figures, 2008 has started as well as 2007. In the first four months, Liebherr signed more than 20 contracts for mobile harbour cranes and the LHM 500 looks set to continue as best seller.  

In terms of deliveries, geographically the Iberian peninsula is setting the tone for another year, with Spain's Terminal Port Nou and Silos de Tarragona taking delivery of one LHM 500 each and Portugal's Terminal Multiusos de Beato receiving the very first LHM 180. The newest addition to Liebherr's lightweight range, the LHM 180 has a 35 metre outreach and maximum lift capacity of 64 tonnes, and is aimed particularly at river and smaller sea ports handling ships up to feeder size. Elsewhere, Saqr Port Authority in the United Arab Emirates purchased two more LHM 500 cranes and South African Port Operations bought an additional LHM 500 for dedicated bulk handling.

Europe continues to play the major role in the mobile harbour crane market for both container and bulk handling, with the most important markets being Spain, followed by Turkey, the UK, Italy and France, says Liebherr. However, Latin America, particularly Brazil, is showing very strong development and is now the world's second biggest mobile harbour crane market. The Middle East and Indian subcontinent come third, with more than 10% of worldwide deliveries.

Gottwald also reports high demand for harbour cranes for dedicated bulk handling. After an order intake for four-rope grab cranes of 22 units in 2006 and 27 units in 2007, the company received orders for five in the first quarter 2008. Top markets in recent years include the UK, US and Syria.

"High handling rates up to 1,800 tonnes/hour, depending on site conditions, long service lifetimes due to high crane classification, short delivery lead times and low specific investments are reasons customers have chosen our four-rope bulk handling cranes," says Volker Struck of Gottwald's marketing department. "However, even dedicated bulk handling cranes prove their flexibility in daily operation, as they also handle container, general and project cargo."

Terminal operator Socarpor in the Port of Aveiro, Portugal, recently commissioned two Gottwald mobiles - a four-rope grab HMK 7408B and an HMK 170E, to increase terminal capacities in handling bulk, project and general cargo.

The four-rope model is said to be the most powerful mobile harbour crane in Portugal, and is the first in Gottwald's Generation 5 series to go into service in that country. A dedicated bulk crane with 50-tonne grab curve and classified for continuous-duty grab operation under rough conditions, its primary task will be grain handling. However, its maximum lift capacity of 120 tonnes makes it ideal for handling project cargo too, a growing business at Aveiro.

This year the new port of Gangavaram has taken delivery of two HMK 6407B mobiles, to be used for handling the import and export of iron ore, coal, limestone and other bulks, as well as general cargo. Gangavaram, coming into operation this year, will be the deepest port in India, with berths to accommodate super-capesize bulk carriers.

Both Gottwald and Liebherr continue to refine the "add-on" features aimed at bulk handling. Gottwald's active dust protection system is a mechanism in which fresh air is sucked in at the tower and fed into the superstructure so that the slight overpressure prevents the ingress of dust. Liebherr says its bulk cranes are totally inured to all kinds of dust due to the fact that exclusively self-contained components are used and no additional air filtering is needed.

For achieving high handling rates and easier operations, Gottwald's Visumatic visualisation and control system arranges all the functions for operation, maintenance and production statistics management, with bulk handling options such as load-sensing mode, point-to-point handling mode and hopper control from within the tower cab.

The load-sensing mode registers and records the number of lifts required to remove a quantity of bulk goods from the hold, so that the best procedure and sequence for unloading the ship's holds can be determined.

Liebherr's features include optimised four-rope grab control as standard, as well as options such as automatic lowering and lifting, guaranteeing an optimal filling level of the grab by current use of its dead weight; slack rope monitoring, for operational reliability and guarding against rope damage; and automatic control of the grab closing winch, to prevent overloading.

With inexperienced crane operators in mind, Liebherr has also developed the Cycoptronic anti-sway system, to achieve higher turnover, better safety and improved operator confidence.

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