The conversion of rubber-tyred gantry (RTG) cranes from diesel to electric power, or to switchable diesel/electric power, is an emerging trend in container ports around the world - and one that has prompted extensive field testing by Conductix-Wampfler.
"The answer to reducing the dependence of RTGs on diesel power is relatively straightforward," says a report from the company. "While the RTG is working in a container row, it can run on electric power only and the diesel engine can be switched off. When the RTG is changing aisles or moving to the maintenance area, the RTG can be disconnected from the electric power source and the diesel engine used just during the move."Conductix-Wampfler has come up with two mobile electrification solutions it says are feasible - electrification using a cable reel installed on the RTG, and electrification using a special conductor bar system.
"Depending on the terminal layout and the logistics concept, one or the other option might be the best solution," says the report. "Both systems have proven to be reliable in different applications."
However, operating an RTG with electric power throws up some technical issues. RTG movement has to be carefully monitored to prevent a collision between vehicle and electrification system; the interface between RTG, electrification system and container yard has to be defined with the RTG manufacturer and the yard operator; and the necessary adaptations of the main power supply must be discussed with the terminal operator.
Conductix-Wampfler has completed projects at more than ten terminals in China and South Korea, using both cable reel systems and conductor rail systems, depending on customer expectation and terminal size and layout.
"Bigger terminals tend to prefer the conductor rail solution. Smaller terminals that need more flexibility in their terminal layout and have less standardised handling procedures tend to prefer the cable reel solution."
The economic advantage of powering RTGs with electric power is very significant, says Conductix-Wampfler. The payback period in most cases is between 12 and 18 months, according to its customes' estimates.
It also presents an alternative to moving away from RTGs towards rail-mounted gantry cranes, as a new terminal might "consider a solution that offers the maximum flexibility without having to change their whole stockyard principle".
Conductix-Wampfler recently won an order for two cable reels at MIT 1 in Panama. These are purchased for an initial field trial RTG diesel-to-electric conversion. Assuming the tests prove successful, the port will buy 22 more units, says the company.
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