26 November 2021

Main trends on the mobile port bulk materials handling equipment market

Over the past 15 years, the development of   seaports in Russia has been significantly higher   than the average activity of the country's   economy as a whole. New ports and terminals   were actively built, existing ones were actively   expanding the range of cargo handled,   productivity/cargo turnover, and re-equipped   with new, high-tech facilities in order to reduce   the unit cost of transshipment. Ports were built   in places with a more favorable climate,   allowing cargo to be handled more days a year,   having greater depths and allowing larger   vessels to be handled (up to 200,000 DWT), and dredging was carried out at existing berths. Specialized terminals were actively replacing universal ones from the market. The tightening of environmental requirements for stevedores has had a significant impact, more and more warehouses under construction are becoming closed, and aspiration and dust suppression systems are being actively implemented. Due to the fact that at the beginning of the period of changes, the fleet of transshipment machines in the country significantly lagged behind the world level, Russia took 2 steps forward at once, purchasing the most modern equipment. Moreover, the tasks of re-equipment were solved both by purchasing imported equipment and creating new models using the best international experience of the flagships of Russian engineering.

The decline in business activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fall in world prices for most of the exchange-traded goods exported by Russia turned out to be much less than expected. Contrary to forecasts, all market participants quickly adapted to the restrictions imposed, mastered new interaction technologies, and the pandemic, in general, even had a positive impact on technological development, giving a powerful impetus to the development of new information technologies in sales, engineering, and management. Many companies at the time of the crisis realized the existence of excellent opportunities to improve their performance and quickly implemented them in their daily practice. As a result, most of the projects that started in 2019 were successfully developed throughout 2020, and work began on new ones. Also, quarantine restrictions created additional barriers for foreign suppliers in Russia, which stimulated the development of domestic engineering and production.
A separate area of active growth and development is cargo transshipment in the regions of the far North, serving oil, gas production, coal and metal mining, moving to the Arctic, and the North Sea route.

Mobile port equipment in Russia is much more represented by machines on steel wheels moving on steel rails than by rubber-tyred equipment. Several circumstances lead to this:

1. Most of the old ports were designed and built for gantry cranes with a gauge of 10.5 or 15.3 m, the pile field is designed for loading only in the area of laying rails, and cannot withstand heavy rubber tyred equipment.
2. Such design solutions are more familiar and understandable to both designers, builders and investors, and therefore more often fall into new projects.
3. Such layout solutions require less expenses for hydraulic engineering and aboveground construction works, and reduce capital expenditures and technical risks.
4. At low negative temperatures and a large amount of snow falling in winter, ship loading machines and cranes on steel wheels are less demanding to clean the territory from snow and ice, they allow to ensure uninterrupted operation both during prolonged snowfalls and during the passage of icy rain.
5. Moving along the rails of the equipment with installed anti-collision sensors and limit switches provides less accidents when performing reloading operations, greater safety for the terminal equipment, personnel, and cargo.

Tehnoros supplies 4 main branches of mobile port equipment:

1. Continuous type ship loaders
2. Portal cranes used with a grab, for handling special containers for bulk cargo, and direct unloading of the hopper car (with grain or mineral fertilizers) into the hold of the vessel;
3. Open and closed storage stackers and reclaimers, scraper- and bucket-, chain- and rotary-, jib-, portal- and bridge- type.
4. Continuous type ship unloaders.

Ship loaders

in current projects are striking in their variety of layout solutions, capacities, and handled materials. The success of previous specialized terminals equipped in the 90’s and 2000’s encourages market participants to take more bold and decisive actions – the number of ship loaders used increases, their productivity rise to 6,000 TPH, their dimensions increase (for example, boom lengths up to 50 m) to serve an increasing displacement (up to 200,000 DWT), and the purchased equipment is subject to increasingly stringent environmental requirements in terms of dust in the working area, noise and vibration. The ports also seek to expand the range of cargo handled on a single loading line, connecting related materials, shipping mineral fertilizers and sulfur, grain and pellets, or, coal and iron ore. Transshipment of materials with a wide range of bulk density and other parameters imposes increased requirements on the developer and manufacturer of the ship loaders, increases the cost and delivery time of equipment, but allows investors to reduce risks and reduce the payback period of the project. Apatite-nepheline concentrate is becoming more and more active among the new cargoes on the export scene of the Russian Federation.

Portal jib cranes.

Despite the triumphant march of continuous type handling equipment, modern portal cranes with a large jib length, large grab capacity and high speeds, still occupy their place in the project pool. These cranes meet the requirements of flexibility for stevedores who are not sure of the stability of cargo traffic in the future. By deftly maneuvering between coal, ore, HBI and pellets, they ensure optimal loading of the terminal with a target margin.
As a contribution to environmental protection, portal cranes offer recovery systems that return electrical energy to the grid when the load is lowered.

Storage stackers, scraper reclaimers and bucket reclaimers

actively displace in the ports portal cranes and gantry/overhead grab cranes. This is also due to the requirements of high productivity, ensuring stable feed, meeting more and more stringent environmental requirements, ensuring careful handling and safety of such demanding materials as ore pellets, HBI, granulated mineral fertilizers. Also, the use of specialized reclaimers on the rail allows you to perform the blending, allowing the stevedore on the one hand to meet the customer's requirements for controlled parameters of the cargo (for example, the iron content in the ore pellets), and on the other hand to purchase poorer ore at low prices. This increases the marginality of the overload, and allows you to ensure the stability of the controlled parameters.
Also, in recent days, due to the growth of cargo turnover, warehouse machines are being designed with larger dimensions – with a boom length of up to 60 m, a portal height of more than 20 m, with a conveyor belt width up to 2 m and even more, and are able to both provide high productivity and serve warehouses of huge linear dimensions.

In addition, the market has recently become increasingly interested in the equipment of closed warehouses, which both protect cargo from precipitation and prevent environmental pollution.
Continuous type ship unloaders are a rare guest in Russian ports that are traditionally export-oriented. But today they are involved in solving problems in complex logistics schemes, for example, when grain or metal ore arrives at the port not as usual – by rail, but on ships of small displacement 3 000 – 5 000 DWT is unloaded from them by continuous machines, mainly with a bucket elevator intake device, then moved to the transit port warehouse, where the ship's batch 50 000 – 150 000 t is accumulated, and and then loaded by mobile ship loading machines on vessels of large displacement (up to 200,000 DWT).

Digital technologies in ports

With the development of information technology, modern reloading machines are increasingly attracting artificial intelligence to help the operator, allowing them to use hidden reserves to increase productivity. The control system receiving information from a huge number of electronic sensors allows loading at high speeds with maximum filling of the conveyor, in a fraction of a second they respond to emergencies such as a belt slip or a roller bearing jamming, allow you to detect the state of alcoholic intoxication of the operator in the cab, do not allow you to perform dangerous maneuvers with the shiploader slewing mechanism when the loading chute inside the hold, clearly see the loading process in fog and snowfall thanks to special video cameras. Special algorithms can even determine that the operator of the shiploader or scraper reclaimer has fallen asleep, or that the sulfur on the boom conveyor has caught fire. Data from all parameters and video recordings over a long period of time are saved and allow you to quickly investigate emergencies and accidents, collect a large amount of valuable statistical data about your work and process it using «BIG DATA» technologies to improve management efficiency and make the right decisions. Based on this information, for example, it is possible to determine whether this ship loader has such a heavy operation mode as it was laid down in the terms of customer’s technical specification, how soon maintenance needs to be performed, and in what year, taking into account the actual load, this scraper reclaimer will run out the resource laid down by the developer.
Sometimes mobile storage equipment -stackers and reclaimers - perform a previously unusual function of determining the volume of material stored in the warehouse right now using laser scanners; identifying areas of overheating and fire in coal warehouses using infrared thermometers and special video cameras, followed by video signal processing.

Today, most of the scraper reclaimers (Kratzer cranes) already operates mainly in automatic mode (without human intervention), and most ship loaders have wireless consoles that allow the operator to perform loading from anywhere - standing on the shiploader boom, on the jetty or on board the ship.

Also in the digital solutions segment, Tehnoros offers customers three types of systems: an automated control system for the entire terminal (implemented by specialized organizations), a system for remote monitoring of supplyed equipment, and electronic simulators for training and qualification of operators of mobile handling machines.

The largest remote monitoring system has been implemented at the railway terminals of TransContainer and allows you to monitor the operation of equipment at all remote sites from the General office. The system has been in operation for several years and has proven its effectiveness. After its implementation, the number of emergency stops decreased, equipment downtime decreased, and spare parts consumption decreased. A similar system could be implemented in any port.

The operator's simulator consists of a 20-foot container, inside which there is a control unit that is completely identical to the real control unit of handling machine, and instead of the cabin windows, liquid crystal displays are installed that display the simulated environment. Sitting at the control unit, the operator can quickly develop the necessary basic skills for handling the reloading machine. The simulator can also be used to test the skills of employees. Thanks to its placement in a standard container, the simulator can be easily moved from one holding port to another and rented out.