Faster, safer, more secure

01 May 2007

Line-less: Cavotec Moormaster's MoorMaster automatic mooring systems in situ at Salalah

Manufacturers of auto-mooring equipment for ports and harbours see only benefits for users,as David Foxwell explains

Every once in a while a new technology comes along that completely modernises an old, antiquated process and forces an industry to redefine how it operates. Though it may be hesitant and cautious with the new technology at first, industry players eventually come to embrace the innovative process and incorporate it into their own business practices.

Such a new technology is automatic mooring, claim well known manufacturers of automatic mooring equipment, who argue that automatic mooring systems are faster, more efficient, safer, and more costeffective than conventional mooring techniques, and provide ports using them with a 'win-win' solution.

Perhaps the best known supplier of automatic mooring technology is Cavotec Moormaster in New Zealand, whose automatic mooring systems are based on an elegantly basic design of large vacuum pads and a self-regulating tidal arm.

"MoorMaster is a labour-free mooring solution that is safer and more reliable than the time-honoured process of tying down ships with ropes and lines. The control and predictability it provides port operators allows for huge increases in operational efficiency," explains company spokesperson Michael Scheepers.

Cavotec Moormaster describes MoorMaster as "a reliable automated mooring system", and "a solution allowing the maritime industry to improve productivity and efficiency". As Mr Scheepers explains: "The MoorMaster automated mooring unit removes all of the problems associated with the traditional way of mooring with ropes.

"Risk of injury to shore and ship personnel by mooring ropes is eliminated. The technology provides continuous load monitoring, relayed in real time to operations personnel, and multiple redundancies of vacuum pads and inherent fail safe features ensure secure mooring, even during power cuts or loss of control signals. Being of robust mechanical design, using only top-rated components, reliable operations are ensured,"says Mr Scheepers.

As with other automatic mooring systems, the MoorMaster also makes for more efficient and effective mooring. Cavotec Moormaster quotes a typical attachment time of less than 12 seconds, and instant release.With an automatic system, notes the company, there are no more delays while waiting for mooring crews to become available. Only one operator is required, based ashore or onboard, to activate and remotely monitor the mooring system, and there is no disruption of other duties or mandatory rest hours of ship crews.

Using automated systems can provide reduction of crew numbers on ships and pier on fixed-route operations, and reduce costs by eliminating those associated with enlarged pier structures when larger ship arrivals are scheduled.

"Fast mooring means reduced operation of the ship's engines, less need for tugs, and reduces emissions into the port environment, and with enhanced turn-around time, the sea voyage need not be undertaken at such a high speed, which translates into fuel savings and further reductions in emissions. Eliminating rope, paint and fender wear, vastly extend the life cycle of these products," says Mr Scheepers.

Cavotec Moormaster's competitor TTS Port Equipment recently completed installation of an automatic mooring system which will service one of the railway berths at the Port of Trelleborg in Sweden.A transverse load of up to 1,000kN is capable of being  matched by the system's holding force, making it, the company believes, the highest capacity system of its kind to date.

The system has been installed on Trelleborg's railway ferry berth No 9, where the ferries connect via a stern ramp.The installation is situated along the quay line at the outer end of the berth and will sustain the transverse forces created by ships while berthed. Scandlines'Skåne and Mecklenburg,both serving routes between Sweden and Germany, will be the first to use the system.

The TTS auto-mooring system comprises a framework fixed to the quay, inside which runs a vertically rolling unit activated by a hydraulic motor. The mooring hook is connected to the unit and is automatically centred within the fixed stand. Two hydraulic cylinders supply the mooring force. The system is remotely controlled and its load monitoring and alarm functions relays information to operations staff in real-time. The system's safety features ensure that ships remain securely moored even during power cuts or loss of control signals.

TTS highlights many of the same advantages for its mooring system as Cavotec Moormaster. Designed to secure the ship quickly and release it instantly,the automooring system offers significant benefits in terms of safety, economy and the environment, and the risk of injury to workers onboard ship and on shore during the mooring process will be eliminated. Only one operator is required.

The TTS contract included design, supply, fabrication, surface treatment, testing and commissioning. The system includes a wagon, fixed stand and a machinery house for the hydraulic power unit and an electrical cabinet. In addition, a telemetry unit and panels have been supplied for installation onboard the two ferries. The recess and bollard onboard the ships will be positioned to connect with the auto-mooring gripping arm.

As company spokesperson Håkan Jönsson explains, TTS produces a range of auto-mooring systems, some using vacuum technology similar to that used by Cavotec Moormaster, but it also produces the grip-type system used at Trelleborg, and a semi-automatic bollard, or SAB, which is also designed to reduce the number of personnel needed on shore during mooring.

The SAB operates as a vertical telescopic moving bollard that can be tilted against the ship's hull, and consists of a hydraulically-operated vertical telescopic arm including a tilting cylinder and tiltable bollard, electric control system, a hydraulic system and control panel.The bollard is operated by radio control from the winch deck or from the bridge (departure only). The company's vacuum-based auto mooring system is remotely controlled and the system's load monitoring and alarm functions relay information to operations staff in real-time.

Mr Jönsson says he believes auto-mooring systems are equally applicable to all ship types, and concurs with Cavotec Moormaster's assessment of the advantages of the technology. "The number of personnel required is reduced, automatic mooring is inherently safer, and it takes less time," he tells PS, noting that,apart from the initial acquisition cost,some through-life costs are incurred by the need for servicing, and that the return on investment is case dependent, and depends on the type of automatic mooring system used and the frequency with which it is used. As Cavotec Moormaster highlights, however, in extreme cases, such as in ports with 'long'waves, there may be other economic benefits to be gained if the productivity of shoreside equipment such as cranes can be enhanced.

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