Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Container Port Hosts Minister To Demonstrate Latest Freight Terminal Equipment

Felixstowe Lets Transport Secretary Try Another Line of Work
Shipping News Feature

UK – Our photograph shows a somewhat trepidatious Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Justine Greening MP at the controls of a gigantic gantry crane sited at berths 8 and 9, the latest addition to the container handling facilities within the Port of Felixstowe. The Minister was at the Suffolk site to visit the site of the new rail terminal due to be constructed next year and to oversee what is already the country’s busiest intermodal freight terminal.

The new berths are home to the latest delivery of two new ship-to-shore gantry cranes and ten rubber-tyred gantry cranes (RTGs) which arrived at the port onboard a special heavy-lift vessel from the Zhenhua Port Machinery Company (ZPMC) of Shanghai. The new ship-to-shore cranes are the biggest of their type in the world, capable of handling container ships with 24 containers wide on deck. Commenting on the Secretary of State’s visit and the arrival of the cranes, Clemence Cheng, Managing Director of Hutchison Port Holdings Central Europe division, said:

“We are honoured that the Secretary of State has chosen Felixstowe for her first visit to a major port. The Port of Felixstowe is uniquely located to serve the UK’s deep-sea container trade and these new cranes further enhance its unique capability to do so. No other port offers the same combination of marine access, proximity to the major shipping routes, and ease of access to the whole national hinterland as Felixstowe. The range and frequency of services calling at the port, together with an unrivalled choice of feeder services and inland rail destinations, make it the right economic choice and the best environmental solution for UK importers and exporters.”

Competition between the British container ports themselves, plus those on the near continent, has never been fiercer. In what can only be described as a tightening market new facilities are coming on stream to match the glut of new build larger box vessels, up to 18,000 TEU, which are now being delivered following orders placed some years ago. These days deepwater berths are considered essential to maintain a port’s prominence and with the development of the London Gateway and the facilities at Southampton, competition for Felixstowe will be fiercer than ever.

With the latest batch of cargo handling equipment the two new berths plus number 37 will be home to no fewer than seven ship-to-shore cranes with the new ones each weighing in at around 2,000 tonnes and capable of lifting two boxes simultaneously weighing up to 70 tonnes in total. Once the cranes are fully commissioned in the New Year they will literally swing into action. Each is fitted with a number of automated driver aids that have been proven to improve the speed of handling.

The Automatic Skew Control corrects any skew movement of the spreader caused by wind, vessel cell guides, or load imbalance, and a semi-automatic positioning system allows the crane operator to pre-select a ship discharge or loading operation from which the system will automatically calculate and position the crane with an optimised path and with anti-sway control.

The MP’s visit was hosted by port operators Hutchison Port Holdings and no doubt the pressure of handling one of the monsters for the first time must be a nerve wracking experience but Ms Greening simply reverted to business saying:

“Felixstowe has a key role to play in the life of the UK, both as a major local employer and as a gateway for over 40% of goods entering and leaving the country. This is one of the reasons our recent spending review included improvements to the A14, one of the country's major freight arteries, and why I was delighted to see for myself the excellent work being done at the port to accommodate some of the world's biggest container ships.”