Tricks of the trailers shows benefits of multiple box moves
John Bensalhia investigates how multi trailers and multi trailer systems can benefit ports in terms of cost, safety and efficiency
When it comes to moving cargo at ports, time is money. Increasingly multiple container handling systems are being deployed with multi trailer systems at the forefront of this
Multi trailers are the answer. With manufacturers continuing to push the scope and capability of the multi trailer, new systems and innovations continue to reduce transportation times, while boosting safety and efficiency levels by some margin.
Aptly, for the sector, there is more than one type of multi trailer. Martin Clive-Smith, BLOK Container Systems Ltd, explains that the range of multi trailers includes single double
stack, single road and rail trains and now BLOK Trailers (which are double width double stack trailers).
“Multiple container handling is the obvious step away from the single container operations which have grown naturally from road and rail width limitations,” says Mr Clive-Smith. “To get the full benefit of multiple container trailers, you also need to look at multiple container spreaders. This combination promises very substantial benefits, both commercially and sustainably. Multiple trailer operations enable a port to use tandem spreaders from RAM, Bromma, Stinis etc. and BLOK Spreaders.”
The BLOK Trailer comes with a spreader adaptor called BLOK Spreader that instantly clips on (or off) any spreader to allow two or four empty containers to be handled at once.
Mr Clive-Smith does, however, add that large trailer moves need to be balanced with ship-to-shore cranes and processing of the containers on the land side. “If a port wants to turn ships around faster and increase its productivity and turnover, then multiple container handling on cranes, quayside and marshalling will do it and at low cost.”
The BLOK Trailer can carry 4 laden TEU or 8 empty TEU with one driver, and one tractor within a 5-metre wide vehicle – the same as a straddle carrier. “The BLOK Trailer jigs or locates containers in the perfect location so speed of pick up and put down with a tandem lift, twin lift or BLOK Spreader saves 15% of crane time per move,” explains Martin Clive-Smith.
“With a BLOK Trailer, you can lift and lower four containers at a time with the BLOK Spreader very rapidly handling at 120 containers per hour straight from ship to BLOK Trailer and reverse." He further states, “Substantial gains are likewise achieved with laden containers in Tandem and Twin with the BLOK Trailer.”
Automation is one of the most important watchwords of today's port technology, and this applies to the multi trailer concept. Gaussin's AMTS Automotive Multi Trailer System, for
example, provides solid reliability and powerful performance for fast, efficient port operations.
Capable of carrying between two and four containers, the AMTS has been designed with short turn radius areas in mind – for U-turns, the distance required is a mere 12 metres.
There is no risk of deviation, as the principle of the AMTS works with steering axles. This means that the passage of the final trailer in the run is exactly the same as the first. The Gaussin system is available in two options.
One, with a tractor and one without a unit (MTS), which can be linked with a regular terminal tractor. Buiscar offers a reliable, easily accessible Multi Trailer System, which is an effective method of transporting cargo.
Comprising a trail-like formation of up to five trailers, Buiscar's system can be pulled by a lone terminal tractor. Each of the trailer trains offers an accurate, mechanical steering mechanism, as well as a braking system.
The steering system ensures that each of the trailers follows the route of the terminal tractor, ensuring an accurate solution that can be used at nearly every port. As well as accuracy, the MTS system offers a flexibility for different ports because it can work for different lay-outs. With a reduction of movements, the system can handle longer journeys.
In terms of efficiencies, the Buiscar system helps ensure lower operating costs at ports, as less personnel and equipment are required. Furthermore, the risk of possible holdups
from cranes and handling equipment is eliminated, thanks to the system's efficiency.
One of the main operational benefits of port multi trailers is the lower cost of operation. Martin Clive-Smith explains that 20% empty containers handled in just a horizontal tandem lift onto the BLOK Trailers saves 10% of STS crane time, with 60% saving 20% of STS crane. “If that is translated into extra port business, then the gains are $200,000 per year per crane.”
Mr Clive-Smith adds that higher utilisation of STS cranes means increased ROC, lower overheads and better business potential. Plus, multi trailer usage results in substantially reduced traffic on the quayside. “The ships are turned around much more quickly, allowing more slow sailing while still maintaining sailing schedules, saving over $2billion per year in fuel cost and 3% pollution for the container industry with no cost to the shipping lines.”
One of the largest areas of improvement that any port operator can make is the effective utilisation of equipment and labour assets and this is clear to see with the ship to shore operation.
“Over the years, various studies and reported statistics have concluded that the greatest potential for improving container crane performance lies in reducing the time it takes in container positioning,” explains Richard Lambert, Managing Director, International Terminal Solutions Ltd. “In fact, some have concluded that as much as half of a crane's cycle time is spent - or wasted - on load positioning.
When it comes to positioning the spreader over the truck chassis, ITS take a slightly more conservative view than some, but still conclude that by shaving a mere six seconds from each ship load movement cycle means the average gross moves will move from 35 to over 37 moves per hour – an immediate productivity improvement of 6%.”
Mr Lambert explains that trailer positioning systems (also known as chassis alignment systems) can provide substantial reductions in non-productive cycle time. “ITS engineers have been implementing these types of systems since 1986 and to meet the demands of the next generation of larger and faster STS cranes, ITS is pleased to announce a major new upgrade to TPS, the ITS Truck Positioning System.”
The ITS system has been proven in the working terminal environment and provides a strategic advantage by consistently positioning the truck at the right place at the right
time, before the spreader arrives. “The system prevents time wasting through shuffling the tractor while the STS crane operator waits for the correct trailer alignment.”
The Trailer Positioning System provides a simple, inexpensive, solution to the problem of container / trailer positioning. Richard Lambert comments: “Our TPS system provided under our PortAutomation.com brand is a result of a study of various system offered in the current TPS market.
"We were initially surprised to find that some of the systems were not actively used because their sophistication meant they were too difficult to set up and then maintain operational accuracy in the harsh conditions of a busy terminal. Some of the systems also distracted the truck driver or required the crane operator to input, set and re-set metrics to allow the system to function correctly.”
He concludes: “Our view is different, we believe the operators should be free to concentrate on the business of moving containers and that the system should be simple, reliable, maintainable by the on-site staff, and automatic in every way."
Allan Jones, ITS’ Head of Business Development adds: “With ever increasing vessel sizes, productivity of moves over the quay is of greater concern for terminal operators, which is driving a growing need for this type of system. Increasing pressures on the terminal staff to improve productivity means you do not have the luxury of tweaking and constantly adjusting the systems. They should just work, and continue to work reliably with minimal intervention.
“As part of our upgrade, we decided to continue with the well proven reliability our system offers, and ensure the system was easy to maintain and simple to use. Our focus was to modernise the functionality for dual container handling and the utilisation of green low energy technology. This allows us to provide TPS at a much lower cost than most other systems in the market and make it very easy to justify the ROI business case.”
With regards to safety, Martin Clive-Smith says that port multi trailers mean that fewer men are in the danger zone of the quayside and there are also fewer damage incidents.
Looking ahead, Mr Clive-Smith sums up what the future holds for ports using multi trailers. “Reduced overheads, relocating labour from quayside to landside, more sociable working hours, a safer environment, happier shipping lines due to faster turnaround, help meet IMO pollution targets, growth of multiple container handling.”
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