Lighting the conversation shift

By 2020, it is expected that all new container handling equipment will be supplied with LED lighting By 2020, it is expected that all new container handling equipment will be supplied with LED lighting

Conversations about LED lighting today are very different to what they were half a decade ago, says Ryan Hertel.

Five years ago, I spent much of my time talking about LED-lighting and the benefits it offers the port industry. Now, conversations are much different.

It is now widely known that LED lighting optimises any terminal in terms of energy efficiency, safety and overall illumination quality. In fact, by 2020, it is expected that 100% of new container handling equipment will be supplied with LED lighting. Adoption of LED technology happened relatively quickly, but it has opened up a new concern about existing equipment in the field with traditional lighting fixtures. With years of useful life ahead of it, how many resources should be allocated to the lighting technology that will soon be unsupported by the manufacturer that supplied it? The short answer is none.

Ports and terminals spend considerable time and money maintaining or repairing traditional lighting fixtures on equipment and in the yard. And the components necessary to repair those fixtures are increasingly not available. Many large terminals dedicate two to three maintenance technicians per night to replace lamps or pay contractors to visit the terminal monthly to replace lamps. Much like the traditional lighting fixture itself, this is not efficient.

As prices fall and efficiency increases, the payback of a conversion to LED calculates to two to three years. Some ports choose to  make the capital investment for a complete LED lighting retrofit and take advantage of downtime due to a crane-raise or other maintenance upgrade. Phoenix recently supplied complete ship-to-shore crane-quantities of LED floodlights to both US West and US East Coast terminals, which took advantage of an opportunity to optimise lighting within a crane-raise project.

A large capital expenditure is not the only route to take to capture the benefits of LED technology. Many terminals do not have crane availability or capital to invest in a complete retrofit. For example, a terminal in the Middle East is eager to reap the benefits of LED lighting but must space out the investment. Maintenance staff will initially replace the floodlights most vulnerable to outages and most critical to operations. In this case, that will be the STS trolley and portal beams. The terminal expects to continue the consistent upgrade over the next two to three years.

For ports that are not in a position to make larger conversions, one-by-one LED replacement is not uncommon. As a traditional light fails, terminals simply replace the entire light with an LED light. As an example, one US East Coast terminal is no longer able to procure replacement floodlights for its existing high-pressure sodium floodlights installed on RTGs. Rather than repairing those floodlights, the terminal stocks LED fixtures, and each light is replaced by an LED floodlight when it fails. This requires no capital investment and slowly brings the benefits of LED technology to the equipment.

I occasionally hear concerns raised in advance about operating equipment with a mix of traditional and LED fixtures, but based on experience to date, this has not resulted in any operational issues or complaints.

A few good questions

Although touting the benefits of LED is no longer required in most conversations about lighting, I do occasionally hear apprehension about changes to light patterns or colour temperatures on different pieces of equipment following a partial LED retrofit.

I recently spoke to an operator of mobile harbour cranes in the Middle East who was concerned about mismatched lighting in an existing fleet. If a warmer light colour is desired in order to match existing illumination, LED fixtures with a colour temperature of 2700-4000K can often be provided. This particular terminal chose to retrofit a mobile harbour crane with new LED lights that will match the rest of the fleet with traditional lighting.

I’ve also faced concerns about the ease of installation during an LED retrofit. Although this has been an obstacle for the industry in the past, leading manufacturers are designing bracket options that match commonly-used traditional lighting fixtures in the field. This allows for direct replacement on equipment and fewer complications during installation.

As the presence of traditional lighting in terminals continues to decrease, so does the uncertainty about LED lighting. The path to this transition in ports and terminals has been short when compared to other markets, and terminals of all sizes and budgets continue to take advantage of the technology.

Ryan Hertel is the managing director for ports and terminals at Phoenix Terminal Solutions.



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