Reducing unacceptable risks

20 Mar 2013

Port Strategy talks to PEMA Safety Committee chair Stephan Stiehler about the Association’s drive to reduce injuries and damage in ports and terminals

Port Strategy: Why did the Port Equipment Manufacturers Association create a committee focused specifically on safety issues?
Stephan Stiehler: Even though port and terminal operations have become substantially safer in recent years, the risk of injuries and loss of life, as well as damage to equipment and cargo, is still a daily reality. We believe these situations are unacceptable, because features and technologies exist which can improve safety dramatically. It cannot be adequate in this day and age that people are still at risk of death when they come to work in ports. Our common aim as equipment and technology experts is to help reduce injuries and damages and enable better overall risk management.

PS: As a trade association, what can PEMA do to make a difference?
SS: Our major role is to gather technical specialists from many companies round the table to develop best practice recommendations and guidance on what is possible. We know that while the major terminal operators have extensive in-house research capabilities, it is often more difficult for smaller companies to stay on top of developments. Our job as PEMA is to help provide that input as a neutral body.
An example was the publication late last year of Recommended Minimum Safety Features for Container Yard Equipment, the second in a series of guidelines developed jointly with ICHCA International and the TT Club. This document outlines the key safety features that operators should incorporate for new or retrofit installation on yard cranes and mobile equipment. Safety features vary depending on equipment type, but all those listed are intended to avert the most common causes of equipment accidents in container yards, including collisions, overturning, hitting boxes and people, knocking boxes off stacks and dropping boxes. Among other aspects, fire detection and suppression and travel anti-collision are widely recommended for use on all equipment types.

PS: What will be your focus for 2013?
SS: During the first part of the year, we will complete an information paper on container weighing, also in conjunction with ICHCA and TT Club. This is designed to provide an equipment and IT input to the current IMO deliberations regarding a mandatory universal container weighing regime in ports. We want to ensure that the legislators understand what is possible – and what is not – with regards to technology, so that new regulations are realistically achievable. In the paper, we look at weighing accuracy levels, container weight verification and the various technologies available, such as weighbridges, load cells on quay and yard cranes and weighing systems on mobile handling equipment.
A second major focus for 2013 is a new initiative on collision prevention at terminals. Our work on the yard safety recommendations, plus feedback from large terminal operators, has highlighted collisions as one of the most critical safety risks. Creating a ‘collision free’ environment in ports and terminals is an extremely challenging task, in terms of management and operational culture, and the supporting equipment and information technologies. Finding a way to effectively detect and warn of the presence of a person near a moving piece of handling equipment, for example, is now a major focus for a number of large terminal groups and for the equipment and technology sectors. One of the major issues here is the frequent presence of third-party truck drivers in the very heart of the terminal, collecting and dropping boxes in the yard. These workers have not been fully trained in the terminal’s safety systems and therefore pose a significant risk. Technology must be part of the answer to this challenge.
Our new paper will describe available technologies and solutions already approved for preventing machine-machine, machine-box and machine-human collisions and also look at some of the emerging cross-technology solutions now under development.

PS: How do you deal with the fact that safety is still not always treated as a top investment priority, especially in times of economic uncertainty?
SS: In fact, we see safety assuming a top management priority in port operations, especially – although by no means exclusively – within the larger international groups. However, we know that a major responsibility for our industry now is to develop innovative and flexible solutions that can simultaneously deliver greater safety, sustainability and efficiency in container and cargo handling.
We need to work closely with the port operators, and within our industry itself, to develop and test new approaches that can be justified both in terms of R&D and implementation cost. Clearly, the answer to today’s questions will not be found in a single ‘silver bullet’, but rather through an intelligent cross-combination of technologies to provide best fit solutions to the market. The knowledge and technology exist, but only through collaboration will we gain a safer, and therefore a more efficient and sustainable, port and terminal business.

Stephan Stiehler is strategic industry manager Ports & Cranes at SICK AG and chairman of the PEMA Safety Committee. Founded in 2004, PEMA provides a forum and public voice for the global port equipment and technology sectors. For more information, please contact Rachael White, PEMA secretary general at: Tel +44 203 327 0577, rachael.white@pema.org, or visit www.pema.org.
 

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