Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Container Shipping Growth Prompts Crane Sales in Battle for Freight Handling Worldwide

As Sir Ben Ainslie Opens New UK Berth, Handling Equipment Groups Profit from Larger Vessels and Increased Tonnage
Shipping News Feature

UK – LATIN AMERICA – TURKEY – WORLDWIDE – Despite the world’s economic woes deep water ports, particularly those capable of handling the new generation of super-size container ships, are engaged in a fiercer than ever competition to stay ahead of their rivals for the available freight handling contracts and the rush to compete is proving a bonus for those involved in supplying container and mobile harbour cranes as well as reach stackers and ancillary equipment. Next Monday (March 31) will see no less a giant maritime figure than Sir Ben Ainslie, Britain's greatest ever Olympic sailor, officially open Southampton's £100 million new box handling facility.

Local port terminal operators DP World are keen that their recent claim as the fastest UK port for turning round container ships will not be challenged, even by the Dubai based group’s new facilities at London Gateway on the River Thames, and this 500 metre long quay in Hampshire is the first major facility added in almost 20 years to the 175 year old port whilst Southampton's ability to cater for the largest container ships afloat is being further boosted by an ongoing dredging programme designed to deepen the main approach channel giving greater access and flexibility all year round.

More than 300 visitors drawn from the marine industry, port staff, and local people are expected to witness Monday’s opening ceremony of the new berth, SCT 5, which is designed to handle the largest and deepest vessels in the world, including the new 18,000-teu ships and James Cooper, Chief Executive of Associated British Ports, which owns 49% of the DP World Southampton facility and which funded the project, commented:

"It is fitting that a Hampshire hero, a local boy who has made the entire world sit up and take notice with his performances on the water, should be the one to open our facility. He has truly defined what the gold standard means. The Port of Southampton supports some 14,730 jobs and contributes around £1 billion to the economy every year. This new quay is vital to safeguard and allow us to grow the business.”

Sir Ben Ainslie himself of course has a career unrivalled in the world of ocean racing, in addition to his four Olympic gold medals, who can forget his addition to the 2013 America’s Cup team which saw what has been dubbed ‘the greatest sporting reversal in history’ when the US won eight consecutive races to pip New Zealand 9 to 8 in the longest contest in the annals of a competition stretching back 162 years. Sir Ben said:

"As a local sailor who has spent many happy hours on Southampton Water, I know what a major contribution the port and the marine industry it supports makes to life in Hampshire. That's why I'm proud to take part in such a momentous event as the opening of SCT5, something that promises to develop the regional economy and build on the port's global reputation."

SCT 5 is equipped with four new Liebherr super post panamax cranes capable of reaching across ships 24 containers wide. A fifth Liebherr crane has been relocated from elsewhere in the terminal to ensure the new berth has the capability to turn ships around quickly and efficiently. While the new berth has a depth alongside of 16 metres, it can be deepened to 17 metres to cater for any future growth in vessel size.

Liebherr is one of the companies enjoying the increased competition between ports which we are witnessing. In Latin America the company has recently received orders for seven additional mobile harbour cranes following a remarkable success achieved in 2013 in the same region, receiving 12 orders in only 12 months for the strongest mobile harbour crane model available, the LHM 600. Capable of servicing vessels up to 19 container rows wide, the LHM 600 provides a maximum outreach of 58 metres and a maximum lifting capacity of 208 tonnes.

As each order for one of the gigantic cranes comes in they feature the latest upgrades and improvements. Chilean based Compania Portuaria Mejillones S. A. opted for their second Liebherr LHM 600 featuring an elongated tower extension ensuring that the position of the tower cabin is higher than 37 metres. Besides better sight into the ship for the crane driver, one striking benefit is a higher fulcrum point which eases the handling of bigger vessels yet with no degrading of lifting capacity and travelling speed.

The first cranes of this specification started operation in Argentina and Uruguay in 2013 and another LHM 600 will soon add capacity to the facilities of Terminal Puerto Arica S.A. in Chile. In Brazil, Chibatão Navegação e Comércio LTDA decided to enforce their port with LBS 600s. Liebherr Barge Slewing (LBS) cranes combine the innovative mobile harbour crane concept and a fixed pedestal mounted on a barge, which replaces the undercarriage to provide an economical and space-saving solution for the installation on quaysides and jetties, especially in Manaus where room for manoeuvring is limited. In total, three LBS 600s will be installed in Manaus this year, where an existing fleet of nine Liebherr Fixed Cargo Cranes and six Liebherr Rubber Tyre Gantry Cranes is already in operation.

The list goes on with Liebherr Maritime Cranes remaining the market leader in Peru with Callao S.A. due to receive two LHM 550s this year, which will significantly increase container and bulk handling throughout the port and bring the total number of these units in the country to seven. Meanwhile global port management company, Grup TCB included a variety of makes and models in last year’s orders for handling equipment.

With €26.2 million spent in 2013, an increase of over 100% against 2012, the group has invested some €84 million in equipment in the past three years and the list gets ever longer. Working again with Liebherr’s Container Cranes operation based in Ireland the two companies have created an innovative crane design, tailor made for best performance from the jetty pier in Nemrut Bay/Aliaga, Turkey, where Grup TCB operates its container terminal TCEEGE. Until now, in order to service container vessels on both sides of the jetty pier, the use of mobile harbour cranes has been necessary. This requires continuous management of terminal tractor traffic and movement of the hatch-covers on the dock. This situation was far from ideal and was not optimising the operational flexibility that a finger pier provides.

The idea of a double boom ship-to-shore (STS) container crane emerged because of the need to operate simultaneously on both sides of the pier, handling two vessels at the same time while improving existing traffic flow and safety on the pier and significantly increasing the productivity rates per vessel. The 360 metre long pier at Nemrut Bay/Aliaga will be equipped with four double boom STS cranes, two of which have recently been commissioned and installed by Liebherr. This will allow up to four cranes to work on the same vessel simultaneously, thus easily exceeding 100 moves per hour per vessel. Alternatively, two medium-sized vessels can be handled simultaneously, achieving a productivity well in excess of 50 moves per hour per vessel.

To meet these new challenges, the Liebherr double boom STS crane has been designed in such a way that it can switch from one boom to another within a few minutes. The machinery trolley and spreader rotate with the cabin, enabling the operator to directly face the vessel in operation. Moreover, the Liebherr drive system allows the STS to work on one side of the pier while having the opposite boom raised to allow berthing and unberthing on the other side of the pier whilst a new circulatory traffic system enhances speed and safety on the ground.

Grup TCB has spread their portfolio of cranes even wider however, recently purchasing from ZPMC, Konecranes, Terex Port Systems and Kalmar as well as Liebherr. TCEEGE has bought two empty container stackers (ECH) and rented two reach stackers (RS). At TCBuen, the group's terminal at the Port of Buenaventura, Colombia orders are in place for the purchase of six RTG (container stacking cranes on tyres) and an STS (Ship-to-Shore). In addition, two RS, one ECH, six TT (Terminal Trucks) and six TC (Terminal Chassis) have been operational since last summer. The terminal is undergoing its second phase of development, which almost double its capacity to 600,000 TEUs moved annually.

At the Valencia Container Terminal four new RTG cranes have been operational since December, in addition to the five TT and five TC operating since last summer. Plus the rental of an additional RS for its Railway Terminal at Valladolid and an investment of €1.5 million was made last year to improve and renew existing handling equipment at various facilities including the Yucatan Container Terminal and the Compañía Auxiliar del Puerto de Tenerife (CAPSA). Meanwhile, the Barcelona Container Terminal introduced a new fleet management system including GPS, access control and stability alarm management. At the same terminal, a Spanish patent has been granted for container weight control during loading and unloading operations.

Grup TCB has not just relied on outside agencies however having developed in house software for Maintenance Management which was implemented at TCBuen, TCB and CAPSA during 2013 whilst In 2014 the new management standard and improved maintenance is expected to be implemented at Gijón Container Terminal plus three other sites.

Altogether the market may remain tough and open to negotiation but container cranes and other port handling equipment has to answer ever increased demands needing versatility and, above all, reliability whilst working in conditions that vary from the frozen reaches to the equatorial hot houses. A market where only the toughest and dependable products with the very best support systems can rely on repeat orders whenever they may come.

Photo: Sir Ben Ainslie