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INTERMODAL UPDATE – CARGO HANDLING: Faster, Safer, Cleaner and Smarter Handling Options

As yard equipment and cranes that are more efficient, cleaner, safer and more inter-connected come into service, seaport workforces must be ready too. Labor is upgrading skill sets to keep pace with rapid advancements in technology.

* By Lori Musser *

Cargo handling equipment developments are bringing greater productivity, velocity, safety and even emissions reductions to ports. While automation projects may be a megatrend affecting the largest container ports, ports of all shapes and sizes are upgrading cargo handling equipment and processes as a steady stream of important innovations pass through.

As yard equipment and cranes that are more efficient, cleaner, safer and more inter-connected come into service, seaport workforces must be ready too. Labor is upgrading skill sets to keep pace with rapid advancements in technology.

At the Port of Halifax, Calvin Whidden, vice president of Cerescorp, Inc., has seen tremendous change over the last few decades. As a professional engineer, he keeps abreast of the new technologies, but cautions that not every advancement suits every situation.

“Each port and terminal has a different set of variables,” said Whidden. Volumes, regional environmental considerations, intermodal partners, the local workforce’s adaptability…all are key in determining the suitability of specific technologies. For example, while there is a strong move toward electric yard equipment, for a port served with coal-fired electricity, electric yard equipment may not be environmentally preferable.

Halifax has introduced several super post-Panamax cranes. “They are capable of reaching 22 containers across the vessel, and measure 140 feet from the bottom of the spreader to the dock (versus 82 feet on the gantry cranes they have replaced). They operate up to three times faster. These new cranes can lift two twenties at once,” said Whidden, and added, “Our record is 76 boxes in one hour on one crane. That level of production was unheard of two decades ago.”

Fast, efficient gantry cranes must be served by fast, efficient yard equipment. Whidden said that Ceres’ new rubber-tired yard cranes (RTGs) are twice as high and twice as fast as their predecessors. They can also lift two twenty-foot containers. “The entire cycle is handled as if you are doing one box, but you are moving two.” The increased velocity, along with 12,500 feet of on-dock rail, means an entire ship can go to rail and be turned without delay.

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