Sucking up could help box terminals

16 Jul 2010
Port Strategy: “[Vacuum mooring systems] may allow us to build container terminals in more exposed locations,” Richard Clarke, Aecom

“[Vacuum mooring systems] may allow us to build container terminals in more exposed locations,” Richard Clarke, Aecom

The use of vacuum mooring solutions such as Cavotec’s MoorMaster can not only speed up and increase safety in ferry turnrounds but could allow the construction of container terminals in more exposed locations, says AECOM’s Richard Clarke.

 

The system has been used at APM Terminals’ Salalah facility in Oman: “There are problems with waves there and in this case the vacuum pads sit on the hydraulic system going up and down, so the system uses the hydraulics to dampen the movement of the ship,” he says.

“In select applications, I am sure that will become more common and it may allow us to build container terminals in more exposed locations. We are running out of sheltered locations and breakwaters are getting bigger and more difficult; this may just allow some things to be done that haven’t been possible before.”

Meanwhile, we are used to the idea of containers stacked seven, eight or nine high, but what about storing them in big steel racks? That way you can retrieve any container at any time, without the need to move half a dozen boxes stacked on top, says Mr Clarke.

“This idea has been around for 15 years but nobody has ever done it,” he says. “It would be like a container warehouse – similar to the high-bay racking of a big car factory, for example.

“Studies have shown that for certain types of terminal this system would show some big financial benefits. I have come across two or three places where we could show it was worth doing, but so far customers have been reluctant.”

Specific racking for such a system does not exist but it would be a fairly trivial piece of design, he says.

“The machine that retrieves the boxes from the rack would be a one-off. But overall it is a classic case of all the elements being in existence in different industries, but nobody has ever put them together in that kind of combination.”

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