Business is Stacking Up
The world of cargo handling equipment continues to develop with the increased focus on environmental and safety concerns. Manufacturers are stepping up with new technologies to meet market demand.
Finland’s Konecranes continues its steadfast reputation for cargo handling equipment. In fact, according to Tuomas Saastamoinen, Sales & Marketing Director, the company has been having great success in the United States, boasting high market share with yard cranes, citing more than 400 units alone sold in the US over the past 18 years.
Konecranes’ automated stacking cranes (ASC) are the most technologically-advanced products they have in their crane portfolio, with 20 of them currently due for delivery later this year to Global Terminals in New Jersey. The light crane design, based on the field-proven technology of Konecranes’ RTGs, with its Active Load Control, enables fast and eco-efficient container stacking. Other Konecranes ASC deliveries are ongoing to four terminals in Europe and Asia-Pacific.
In January, Konecranes announced the world’s first hybrid reach stacker, the SMV 4531 TB5 HLT, for container handling, with a lifting capacity of 45 tons. It has a diesel/electric driveline and electrified hydraulic lifting system which helps reduce fuel consumption and emissions while providing better lifting response to driver commands. And while important advances in technology have been helping with global cargo handling equipment environmental concerns, Saastamoinen says in Europe, there is an organization called PEMA (Port Equipment Manufacturers Association) working to push for basic standards in design among crane manufacturers.
“Unfortunately, the industry has not yet been able to provide a standard system of measurement for container crane performances similar to that provided by the automotive industry, or even for household appliances,” says Saastamoinen. “PEMA has been driving an initiative, which we at Konecranes fully support, to provide a standardized system of measuring energy consumption per TEU, with weight and performance data, that would enable realistic comparison.”
“Currently, the problem in the market is there are so many different technologies offered that when statements like 40 to 50 percent savings are put out there, the customer doesn’t know where the actual savings are coming from. That’s why we are trying to get a standard where all crane suppliers would measure the energy consumption cycle so the comparison would be apples to apples. And then on top of that base requirement, you could add auxiliary technologies which may reduce the consumption and emissions further.”
The same goes for driver safety technologies. Konecranes has been continually working on new ways that keep crane drivers focused on the job and not on secondary maneuvers, which their advanced load control technology helps with. “The load stays under the operator’s control so it doesn’t sway and there are no unwanted movements,” explains Saastamoinen. “And again, we are thinking that the core of the equipment has to be in order. Then you can add auxiliary devices that may take the safety aspect further.”
Mi-Jack Products headquartered in Hazel Crest, Illinois, is supplying EcoPower Hybrid Systems, battery GenSet technology on their RTGs for both port and rail applications. Their new EcoCrane hybrid solution can be supplied on new RTG equipment as well as being retrofitted for repowers on RTG’s using conventional diesel electric GenSet.
Back in 2009, Mi-Jack’s EcoPower was placed on the EPA Emerging Technology list, and the following year, was awarded the US EPA Clean Air Excellence Award. After an extended period of duty cycle RTG testing, the EPA has now issued Mi-Jack final verification of EcoPower Hybrid Systems Inc.’s EcoCrane Hybrid System.
“Mi-Jack’s RTG Model 1200R has long-time been the standard crane for rail intermodal operations, and now with its hybrid power solution, has attained even more widespread usage with Class One railroads,” says Dan Reis, Vice President, Port Division. “This same battery GenSet hybrid technology has carried over to port terminal operators who are facing stiff environmental regulations, and by repowering/retrofitting with Mi-Jack’s hybrid system, they have found a cost-effective solution and sound return on investment.”
The EcoCrane Hybrid System uses a battery bank as the primary source of power, allowing the downsizing of the engine from a 6-cylinder (680-1,085 HP) to 4-cylinder Tier 4i (173 HP), reducing fuel consumption up to 70 percent, depending on the duty cycle, and reduced PM and NOx by 70 percent or greater, also giving drivers a break on exhaust emissions and engine noise. “EcoCrane is just one example of Mi-Jack’s EcoPower product portfolio of cutting-edge green type of product advancement we now offer,” says Reis. “We always listen to the end-user and this one has been a winner for Mi-Jack, too.”
Reis also reports Mi-Jack is substituting lead acid type of batteries with Lithium Ion type which has two times or more the energy density. Li-Ion batteries require less space and weight and can be stored prior to usage much longer. “There is no loss of equipment performance with container handling utilizing batteries as primary power source although that’s sometimes a concern with just thinking of battery power versus engine power,” he says.
EARLS Industries located in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada, is celebrating their 59th year in a four-generation-run family business and is still the only Ship-to-Shore (STS) spreader manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere. Their Floating Twin-Twenty (T20) spreaders are based on an EARLS U.S.-patented invention which Bruce Coatta, Principal Sales Marketing Corporate Secretary, says set the bar for defining this function world-wide.
The T20 spreaders are driven by hydraulic extension cylinders that are designed, engineered, and manufactured in-house and exclusively use the multi-position (20’/40’/45’) single container handling capability of the typical modern STS container crane spreader. “Our superior product will only be of interest to the end-user who truly is interested in the total life cost,” says Coatta.
Spreader functions, for the most part, relate to the three main functions of the vast majority of container crane spreaders: (1) TL (twistlocks) lock and unlock in the container’s corner castings (2) flippers (corner guides) rotate down to gather onto a container and up to afford clearance into the ship’s cell guides, and (3) extend/retract slide frame motions to accommodate the 20/40/45 ISO container lengths. EARLS spreaders are equipped with fabricated twistlock pins and nuts that are also manufactured in-house.
Coatta reports there have been a few developments in terms of the ‘floating T20’ which improved handling of the nominal 10% of conventional twin-stows, and the ‘separating ST20’ which enabled twin-handling of an additional 5% to 10% of separated or ‘gapped’ twin-stows, each of which is quite significant to the bottom-line of the terminal operator, but the remaining 80 to 85 percent of handling still entails only the three main functions originally listed above.
“The EARLS approach to technological development has been to listen to our end-user customers, and they tell us that improved reliability is the most important consideration moving forward,” says Coatta. “As a result, the EARLS Spreader has been improved to the point that it has a nominal useful working life for an above-average terminal operation in the range of 15 to 20 years of 24/7 front-line operation, as opposed to a more common modern trend toward a throw-away 10-year nominal life product.”
While it might be true that an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach could be applied when it comes to standard crane and spreader design, it’s obvious that in today’s eco-conscious shipping world, it makes sense for manufacturers to continue driving new technological developments that work for both the customer and the ever-changing regulatory environment.