The addition of a new bespoke design mobile has significantly enhanced steel slab handling operations at Tees Port
He told Port Strategy the new unit, now in bulk steel service on Tees Dock, would allow the port to move the capacity goalposts.
"Two or three years ago we were thinking we could do two million tonnes of slab at this port, along this quay length, given this area.
Now we know we can do three million tonnes quite comfortably and we could probably do four if we really pushed it, " Robinson said.
The Type HMK 330 EG heavy-lift crane is the 1000th mobile unit built by the Dusseldorf-based pacesetter and the seventh Gottwald crane for Teesport since 1993. It is the twin of a crane which came in last year. Together with that unit, other cargo handling equipment, forklifts and rail infrastructures, it is part of a PD Ports investment of £7.5m, now largely complete.
"It's all about performance and improvement and productivity", Robinson said, explaining the strategy behind the latest crane acquisition.
He specifically mentioned capacity and outreach. Tees Port has no locks, so 50,000 dwt bulkers can be loaded up. However, Handymax and Panmax sized vessels need a 35 metre outreach with the highest load, he noted.
The new Gottwald cranes handle up to 64 tonnes, two slabs each of 32 tonnes, at 35 metres. So the biggest slabs can move in fewer slings.
Demurrage on a berthed 50,000 dwt bulker was nearly $30,000 a day. "Save a day and that's what you save the owners", Robinson said.
"We are so much more productive now than we were", he declared, The Gottwald cranes were as much a part of that as technological improvement, personnel safety and training. "We are now handling slab faster than we have ever handled it, in terms of ship operations" and volumes will continue to grow in a number of areas, he predicted.
The port's special relationship with major steel customer Corus, whose steel slabs the new crane is now handling on Tees Dock, had also played a role in the latest Gottwald acquisition, he said. Yet another reason was that "Gottwald makes a damned good crane", Robinson acknowledged.
Finally, the latest crane is a 'bespoke' unit to meet more demanding customer requirements, handling speeds and product changes. It has a bigger and wider chassis than previous units. It also has more wheels and the distances between axles had been adapted to fit local quay loading limits.
Gottwald says the HMK 330 EG is to bulk handling what the bestselling HMK 300 E is to container and general cargo operation.
The Diesel electric, 4-rope grab crane is the most successful of the firm's mobile units in the bulk sector, with 42 units sold since its launch in 2001. It handles all bulk, including coal, ore, gravel, sand or agribulk, and achieves handling rates of up to 1,200 tonnes/hour. Designed as a grab crane, it can also be used for handling containers, project cargo or general cargo including steel sheet, coils, wire or billets.
David Robinson said the first of the seven Gottwald cranes on the Tees had "probably handled around 10 million tonnes of cargo to date.
We are looking to handle the same amount with this new crane over the next 12-13 years", he told Port Strategy.
There were "no plans for crane Number 8 in the short term".
However "if we get another customer, or business grows or there's a step change in commercial volume, then maybe ? ", he added.
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