Terminal Workhorses have through-life costs in tow

Canny ro-ro tractor operators should focus on through-life costs, say the manufacturers. David Foxwell reports.

As Burkhard Koriath, MAFI's general sales manager, explains, customer requirements for ro-ro tractors continue to be specific to the requirements of individual terminals and individual operators, but more and more operators are taking through-life costs into consideration in addition to the cost of acquiring the equipment in the first place.

"The requirements of the individual customer as to configuration of a ro-ro tractor are very diverse, " he says, "but apart from looking for a product that is extremely reliable and robust, service companies in ports are also looking for solutions which can be operated at a good cost-efficiency ratio.

"On one hand, " he says, "ports want to purchase their equipment according to their individual specification, so every tractor is made for the individual needs of our customers. The price of the equipment plays an important role, and a customised solution remains important. But wise customers are also paying more and more attention to throughlife costs, and the costs associated with service intervals, routine maintenance, and spare parts, and to availability of spare parts, " he explains, noting that, on Mafi's latest ro-ro-tractors, such as the new M30/36 series, all important data can be monitored by the driver using an on-board electronic display, and all daily inspections - such as engine oil and brake fluid level - can be quickly and easily accomplished using a specially designed inspection hood.

Koriath says Mafi's philosophy is to take care of the customer's requirements whether he is looking for a single or large number of tractors, and with this comes a focus on supporting the equipment once it is in service, notes Koriath, highlighting the fact that when Mafi delivers a ro-ro tractor the company always sends a service technician to hand it over.

"After-sales service is of particular importance so that the customer will always find a helping hand in case any problems occur, " he told PS, noting that short delivery times are also a key issue.

"Beside this, we are always prepared to support our customers with a stand-by tractor in times of peak loads or repairs."

Having supplied a total of 12 MT 30 ro-ro tractors to the Port of Piraeus and another 20 terminal tractors to Marport in Turkey earlier this year, Mafi has also noted a high level of demand for heavy-duty roro tractors, having recently received an order for five special-purpose MT 45s from BT Svenska who will be using them to handle Stora Enso Cargo Unit (SECU boxes) with a load of approximately 95 tons.

As the SECU boxes are 3.60 metres wide, the MT 45s will have offset cabins to ensure that drivers have excellent visibility when pushing a unit.

Another advantage of the custom-designed MT 45s is the overall size of the driver cabin - the Port of Gothenburg has to install monitors and communication equipment in the cabs which are also fitted with a certified Roll Over Protection Systems (ROPS) according to the latest safety standards, and a specially designed swivel seat console. The fifth wheel coupling - a Eurohitch type - is fitted with a 3.5in king pin in order to couple the elevating trailers.

Mafi's competitor Kalmar, confirms through-life costs are becoming increasingly important to customers for its ro-ro tractors and highlights the robust design of the latest addition to its range or tractors, the TRX182 4 x 4 ro-ro tractor unveiled last year. Kalmar has put safety first, and the new cabin is fully tested according to international standards such ROPS, and is available with a number of options, including an air-suspended cabin mounting, an electrically operated driver's side window, and a new roof light.

DESIGNING FOR SERVICEABILITY Again, with through-life costs in mind, the new chassis also features several improvements, aimed primarily at making service and maintenance easier, and with noise pollution in mind, there are no longer any direct routes via which noise can escape from the engine compartment. To further minimise noise pollution, the TRX182 also has a new engine air filter system as well as new silencer and exhaust pipe, modifications that also have the added advantage of improving driver visibility from the cabin.

Patrik Sjoblom, a general manager at Kalmar, told PS that in his view, providing customised solutions to individual customer requirements remains the key to the market, but agreed that the lifetime costs of a ro-ro tractor were increasingly important, and increasingly form a part of a customer's initial enquiry.

"Driver comfort and issues such as noise pollution are important too, and of course emissions are an issue everyone knows about, but in terms of reducing through-life costs we are talking about things like designing for serviceability, and ensuring that there is easy access for servicing. Customers keep fewer spare machines these days, so reliability is even more important, " says Sjoblom.

Terberg Benschop, another important manufacturer, says iTs ro-ro and terminal tractors are designed with "maintenance-friendly engineering" in order to help keep through-life costs low. The Terberg approach to design and manufacturing emphasises standardization and the Keep it Safe and Simple (KISS) approach wherever possible.

Safety, performance, driver comfort and visibility, and emissions are all important, notes the company, but it gives equal weight to easy access for maintenance with features such as a high level of cab tilt (65 degrees), easy engine access, easy access to engine oil, coolant, transmission and hydraulic levels, and ease of access to electrics, with easily-identified PCBs, relays and fuses all accessible in a single, central compartment, under a hinged, sealed cover.

Another typical example of this easy maintenance approach is the air-cooling system on Terberg's RT382 4 x 4, which was designed to cope with high temperatures - up to 50 deg C continuously.

Although only one feature of the RT382 4 x 4 - other include an ergonomically designed cabin with air suspension, and new-profile anti-slip access to the cab - the cooling package is designed as a module which can be easily taken apart or removed from the vehicle should the need arise, whilst the hydraulic system on the RT382 has a large 230 litre capacity hydraulic oil tank which ensures the tractor can operate in the harshest conditions.

The RT382 also has what Terberg describes as "the lowest possible maintenance requirements, " thanks to maintenance-free suspension, an absolute minimum number of grease nipples, and what the company describes as "very long engine oil change intervals."

Douglas Equipment bringing new ideas to market The UK?s Douglas Equipment, once a market leader in the ro-ro and terminal tractor sector, is re-designing and updating its product range with a view to re-entering the market. Technical sales manager Douglas Ingle says the company had recently delivered a terminal tractor to an unspecified customer and was now quoting to build ro-ro tractors based on its NS-4RR design. Douglas Equipment was also well known in the industry for its NS8-2000 terminal tugs.

TTS acquires Liftec TTS Ships Equipment in Gothenburg, part of Norway?s TTS Marine, acquired Finalnd?s Liftec Products earlier this year and re-named the company TTS Liftec Products. Liftec Products? portfolio includes systems for container and cargo cassette handling, the majority of which have been so far sold to European ports. In recent years TTS has cooperated with Liftec on the development of robotic systems, particularly Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV).

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