Friday, February 22, 2013

Innovative Container Crane Design Aids Shipping Throughput but Box Freight is a Dangerous Business

Liebherr Solves a Long Standing Problem Whilst Elsewhere there are Timely Reminders that Safety is Always Paramount when Handling Containerised Cargo
Shipping News Feature

TURKEY – WORLDWIDE – A ‘finger pier’ where a thin and long, hard standing jetty juts out into the water can make life difficult when one is faced with the problem of optimising vessel turnaround times. To solve this problem on the jetty pier in Nemrut Bay/Aliaga, Turkey, where Grup TCB operates its container terminal TCEEGE, the resident company turned to Liebherr Container Cranes to create an innovative crane design tailor made for shipping the freight as quickly as practical.

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 producing a situation that 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 (see photo). 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.

Both cranes are fitted with crane to crane and crane to ship anti-collision systems, has a total lift height of 53 metres and the machinery trolley and associated cabin is capable of turning through 180 degrees to allow operational flexibility on both sides of the finger pier. Liebherr’s Managing Director, Pat O’Leary commented:

“The double boom crane design was a unique engineering project in terms of innovation and scale. Liebherr Container Cranes have manufactured the first (a smaller unit) double luffing crane in 1976 for Piombino Italy. We were able to draw on the many years experience in designing site specific and machinery house trolley cranes which helped us deliver the optimum solution for the Port of Nemrut Bay/Aliaga”

A major advantage of working with a STS on a jetty pier is the span of 36 metres meaning the portal beam platform can accommodate up to three hatch-covers, leaving the entire pier unimpeded. In combination with the new terminal tractors circulation concept (two-way central circulation “pit lane” and two 'pit stops' for each STS) traffic jams will be avoided and there will be improved safety for ground personnel.

Safety is something very much to the forefront this month when considering the handling of containers, particularly now during difficult times when speed of vessel turnaround is essential to profitability for both terminal and ship operator. Just this week a coroner’s jury recorded a verdict of accidental death of a crewman working atop a box ship whilst she was berthed and being worked on in the Port of Felixstowe.

It was concluded that 30-year-old able seaman Jose Gonzalez-Ortega died as a result of a fall into a cargo hold aboard the container ship MV Tempanos shortly before 7am on December 17 last year, probably due to slipping in icy conditions. As a result of the accident port managers Hutchison Ports has initiated safety procedures including meetings between dock workers and crew prior to commencing unloading or stowage.

A Marine Accident Investigation Branch report concluded that the common practice for some crew members to walk across holds where the hatch covers were partly open, coupled with ice on the hatch cover were the probable cause and that the safety management system aboard the Tempanos did not control the risk sufficiently.

Another group warning against the dangers of container handling this month was the TT Club which covered the problems associated with trying to lift to 20’ boxes simultaneously using a crane spreader in 40’ mode. This method is inherently dangerous unless the containers are linked in the middle and as the TT Club points out the results of lifting whilst insufficiently secured can be varied but inevitably disruptive and expensive.

All experts in the field have long recognised this problem and with damages frequently exceeding a quarter of a million dollars the TT Club and the International Cargo Handling Co-ordination Association (ICHCA) Expert Panel have raised the matter with the PEMA (Port Equipment Manufacturers Association) Safety Committee and as a result a number of solutions are being investigated to deal with the inconsistencies of the current load sensors or find additional controls.

Sensor devices can never be relied on 100% in these cases, often they have been disabled, incorrectly set or simply absent and the TT Club feels that due to the sheer number of cases it has witnessed where systems have been overridden or disabled pushes strongly towards the need for clear and enforced procedures to minimise such incidents. The TT Club comments can be seen in full HERE and are worth reading by anyone involved in handling containers.

Photo: The new Liebherr cranes in operation.