Servicing future needs

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Industry Database

Larger ships and increasing productivity mean that proper maintenance of terminal equipment is more important than ever, reports Patrik Wheater

This year ship classification society Germanischer Lloyd (GL) will release details of a next generation containership that will dwarf the Emma Maesrk class behemoths. GL and its partners are expected to unveil a design for an 18,000 teu-plus containership but with such leviathans on the drawing board is current container handling equipment up to the job of moving in excess of 250 boxes an hour?

Increasing the size of containerships is favoured by shipping lines in order to reduce the transportation and shipbuilding costs per teu. These larger vessels will certainly require faster handing using multiples of ship-to-shore cranes (STS) but, according to one specialist, problems will arise when the container hits the quay.

"There is no way that reach stackers or heavy top lifts could be used as the primary handling system," says the industry source, "but conventional straddle carriers and automated straddle carriers could cope with these ship side volumes. It largely depends on the conditions at each particular terminal and the amount and frequency of vessel calls, which can only be determined with simulation."

The development of larger containership capacities will impact primarily on turnaround times and the need for higher storage capacity and Jari Pirhonen, Kalmar Industries' general manager, terminal development, agrees: the trend does favour automatic stacking crane concepts, "as it gives high storage capacity without high labour costs.

"These automatic stacking cranes," Mr Pirhonen continues, "can be fed by shuttle carriers, decoupling vessel operation and minimising the number of equipment needed, which makes it easier to get high vessel productivity. This is especially important with new handling concepts such as tandem lift or with multiple ship-to-shore cranes working on the same vessel."

Indeed with the introduction of post-panamax ships, productivity is said to have improved with the introduction of new faster straddle carriers between ship side and stack, such as two-high shuttle carriers.

When using the traditional method of serving the ship side and rubber-tyred gantry (RTG) crane/ASC using terminal tractors, productivity is limited to the quantity and prompt availability of terminal tractors under the crane.

Post-panamax cranes also place the operator much higher from the ground, which also has a negative effect on productivity when trying to spot a container on a chassis. New shuttle carrier concepts can separate the ship side operation from the land side operation allowing the ship to shore crane to ground containers on the quay and if necessary create a buffer stock of containers. This also applies at the interface with the RTG/ASC, where the shuttle carrier can place containers on the ground for buffering and access. The shuttle carrier allows the ship-to-shore crane and the RTG/ASC to perform at optimum speed, greatly boosting productivity at the ship side and in the container stacks.

Larger terminals with long running distances will almost certainly opt for high density stacking using RTGs or rail-mounted transtainer cranes, although with quayside cranes increasingly lifting multiple containers, a higher ratio of yard equipment is going to be required to support them, which might make mains-powered RTGs more attractive, says Ken Clarke, who was in charge of operations at ICTSI but now enjoys retirement in Cyprus.

"Manufacturers are claiming substantial energy cost savings but the need to plug and unplug to move blocks affects their productivity. I estimate 10% more machines are required to maintain the same productivity. However, as the ratio of yard equipment increases to support multiple lift quay cranes the need to move RTGs between blocks is greatly reduced, making them a more attractive option," says Mr Clarke.

He also notes that straddle carriers costs have increased significantly compared with RTGs largely because their main manufacturing base is in Europe, their life expectancy is also much shorter. However straddles are less labour intensive than RTGs so where terminals are small and labour costs high there will still be a market.

Mr Clarke also predicts a trend towards automated terminals, particularly if development costs can be brought down. "Right now there are too many moving parts but if one of the major software companies like Navis or Cosmos were able to offer an 'all inclusive package' then this would make automation more attractive to terminal operators."

Although there are pros and cons and the debate continues over whether automated systems are as flexible and faster than their manual counterparts, terminal automation (both total and smart-based systems) looks set to increase as the industry expands. Machine use will be optimised and human error reduced to near obsolescence, which means accident repairs will be eliminated and wear and tear significantly reduced. Remote diagnostic solutions should, however, be factored into any investment to ensure that the automated systems are behaving correctly in lieu of a driver.

The maintenance of conventional straddle carriers, although to a large extent dependent on the type of straddle, is mainly related to mechanical wear and tear. Lubricant and filters changes, retightening and re-tensioning of any kind of connections potentially loosened during operation and routine engine services should be scheduled as a matter of course, while maintenance of certain components has to follow the original manufacturer's recommendations and maintenance manuals in order not to interrupt the warranty life.

Service agreements and systems that offer reduced maintenance will inevitably be the key to system (and company) selection in future and outsourcing will also become more commonplace, as special know-how and tools are required. It will also become more critical to guarantee high availability for automated equipment, so maintenance contracts become more attractive.

In Brisbane, Kalmar Service has signed a maintenance contract for Patrick AutoStrads and is using remote machine interface to wirelessly follow the condition of the strads. The company is also set to launch in March its re-branded service and maintenance solution, Total Terminal Maintenance.

If we look at the number of Greenfield sites coming on stream over the next five to ten years, clients are looking ahead at outsourcing not just maintenance but everything from the cost of ownership to procurement, says Jason Smith, sales manager for Kalmar. Total Terminal Maintenance offers maintenance of prime movers right through to the infrastructure itself with a number of packages tailor-made to suite the operator. The scope of the agreement is extensive and other than equipment such as mobile harbour cranes, reach stackers, terminal tractors, and lift trucks etc, can include financing and commissioning through to disposal.

The benefits of outsourcing to this degree, says Mr Smith, is that it provides operators with more flexibility for financing company growth, especially important with the development of new terminals to meet increased volumes.

Kalmar's bespoke Total Terminal Maintenance packages are now in place with Cargoservice AS, at Arrhus, Denmark; with APM, Mumbai container terminal, India; and ICTSI's container terminal in Madagascar, Africa. All of these agreements cover workshop design, maintenance management and engineering, 24/7 service work, parts logistics, improvement projects and logistics and more.

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