Innovations in ship unloading

by Teresa Acklin
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Ship loading and unloading technology has come a long way. The early mechanical and pneumatic unloaders had several disadvantages. They were noisy, used a lot of fuel and often damaged cargo. But as major manufacturers have tackled these problems, sales of ship unloaders have increased.

Unloaders are now more efficient and quieter. They are more versatile, cheaper and produce fewer pollutants. Some even guarantee no damage to cargo, and many are customized fit a customer's particular need. These innovations, combined with a strong world demand for grain exports and imports, have increased the popularity and necessity of ship loaders and unloaders.

TRACKING MARKET REQUIREMENTS. Vigan Engineering has supplied ship unloaders to ports in 82 countries by continually improving its technology and by keeping up with market requirements. Vigan said some of this success is due to its ability to custom-build ship unloaders for each client's needs. Since Vigan integrated all of its manufacturing in-house, production has become faster and more reliable, allowing the company to erect and test an unloader before it left the factory.

With the addition of a patented cutting nozzle, Vigan ship unloaders are able to discharge a large number of non-free-flowing materials. In the agri-bulk sector, soybean meal frequently compacts during transport. The cutting nozzle easily loosens the material and allows for faster grain intake.

With a winch on the boom for lifting front loaders in the holds, the unloading capacity of soybean meal can reach up to 500 tonnes per hour. Another major advantage is that compacted bulk products can be unloaded without weight losses and dust contamination in port areas, Vigan said.

Vigan also has developed a new system to protect delicate cargoes like rice, malt and cocoa beans. Such companies as Cargill, Soufflet, Heineken, and Interbrew are using Vigan technology for malt unloading in Europe, as are brewing companies in South America. Recently, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland Co. chose Vigan technology for unloading cocoa beans in Holland and in Singapore.

EARNING A POSITIVE REPUTATION. Neuero Corp. has long been aware of the unpopular opinions of portable ship unloaders and their reputation as "inefficient," said Neuero representative Tomas Kisslinger. The company has taken great strides to change this opinion by improving the operational efficiency of its unloaders.

By offering both suction and pressure hydraulic booms, pipe handling is reduced and ship gear use is not needed, said Mr. Kisslinger. The newer portable pneumatic unloaders also allow operators to control the grain discharge rate to ensure unloading in a specific amount of time. Neuero's new models can act as back-up for large, single-line unloaders or allow multiple, simultaneous discharging.

Neuero also tackled the problem of grain dust. Allowing dust to escape while unloading reduces the weight of the shipment, costing the shipper money. However, flour mills prefer no dust because it has to be removed anyway. But the main concern about dust is that, under certain conditions, it can cause an explosion in a silo or other enclosed area.

An elevated receiving hopper connected to the unloader was Neuero's dust control solution. It provides a cleaner environment while the hopper serves as a buffer, allowing the unloader to continue operating while the next truck is pulling into position.

The Silo Company in the El-Dekheilia Port, Egypt, recently began using one of Neuero's new unloaders. The 180-tph, suction-pressure unloader with suction- and pressure-telescopic booms led to more orders from the Silo Company for the El-Dekheilia Port as well as orders for the company's ports in Damietta and Port Said, Neuero said.

ENVIRONMENT-FRIENDLY OPERATIONS. BMH Marine AB in 1974 introduced the Siwertell screw-type ship unloader for continuous, environment-friendly operation. Today, Siwertell unloaders for grain and fertilizer are in operation around the world. Unloader sizes range from road mobile 200- to 300-tph units for ships and barges up to 5,000 dwt to heavy duty 1,500-tph machines suitable for vessels up to 130,000 dwt.

BMH also recently introduced the PortMaster pneumatic ship unloader with capacities up to 500 tph, suitable for different vessel sizes and applications.

BMH Marine recently installed a 200-tph Siwertell road-mobile ship unloader for grain at Porto Velho, Brazil, for Hermasa Navegacáo da Amazónia, S.A. In Mexico, a larger Siwertell ship unloader for grain and urea was installed in Manzanillo for Comercializadora La Junta. The unloader was designed to handle very low wheel loads and a capacity of up to 1,175 tph.

BMH also supplied Cia Canaria de Materias Primas, Santa Cruz, Tenerife, with a multi-purpose mobile unloader of up to 700 tph for ships up to 35,000 dwt as well as a 600-tph unloader for Graneles S.A., Buena Ventura, Colombia.

IMPROVED DESIGN. Over the last several years, the bulk handling industry has demanded lower investment costs, shorter lead times, more versatile equipment, and easier and less expensive start-up, operation and maintenance. In response to these demands, Christianson Systems, Inc., parent company of Dunbar Kapple, improved its Vac-U-Vator line of ship unloading and bulk conveying equipment.

Starting at under U.S.$80,000 for 120-tph of capacity, the Vac-U-Vator's new standardized design reduces lead time. The machines are assembled and pre-tested at the factory to reduce installation and commissioning time and expense, Christianson said.

The Vac-U-Vator also can be used to move dustier products such as meals. An automatic, self-cleaning filter receiver minimizes the amount of dust entering the turbo-blower, significantly lengthening its service life. The turbo-blower, which provides vacuum intake and pressure discharge, allows up to 100 meters in almost any application.

The modular fabricated design also minimizes shipping and erection costs. All unloaders are shipped in ISO ocean-shipping containers. A Vac-U-Vator can fit in one 40-foot standard ocean container and can be assembled and ready for operation in two days.

Christianson also manufactures the Super Tower pneumatic unloader, featuring an improved filtration system to allow easier and safer access for servicing. The Port of San Antonio, Chile, began using a 300-tph Super Tower early last year to unload cereal grains, pellets, and soybean meal. The Super Tower's towable chassis allows for easy movement between various berths at the port.

Sevil Boru Profil Sanayi ve Ticaret of Instanbul, Turkey, received two 200-tph capacity Super Portable unloaders to discharge sunflower seeds and other grains from barges into trucks. To provide maximum road mobility, the unloaders are transported and operated by a truck chassis.

Capitalizing on China. Grain imports are particularly high in China, where the population is 1.3 billion with an annual population increase of 18 million. Although northern China produces maize and southern China produces the country's staple food, rice, there is still a need for many other types of grain.

Because of the country's insufficient infrastructure, grain distribution by sea and rivers remains the most efficient method of transportation, requiring many types of port equipment, especially ship unloaders. Buhler Ltd. is addressing this demand.

The company installed two unloaders at the Port of Ningbo, a mechanical Portalink unloader equipped for 1,200 tph and a 250-tph pneumatic Portalift unloader to unload wheat, maize and oilseeds. Both machines work with vessels in the 60,000 dwt class.

At the port of Xizui, near the city of Dalian in the Liaoning Province, the Chinese government is building concrete silos with storage capacity of 600,000 tonnes, which will make Xizui the largest grain terminal in the world. Buhler said it has received an order to supply the port with two 1,000-tph mechanical Portalink HL-SKT unloaders to discharge from 80,000-dwt vessels. In addition, two Portalink unloaders, each 480 tons and 34 meters high — the largest machines ever designed by Buhler — have been ordered by the port of Shanghai.

Buhler's mobile unloaders are equipped with tires, diesel engines that run for 20 hours without refueling and many material handling options.

Five Star Flour Mills in the Port of Al Adabiya, Suez, Egypt, and Sayga Flour Mills in Sudan also have commissioned Buhler unloaders. In Sudan, where the roads are uneven, in poor condition or unpaved, a new traveling gear with hydraulic suspension and pneumatic tires had to be developed. The hydraulic wheel suspension compensates for the undulation of the ground and protects the steel structure from undue torsion, Buhler said.

Buhler also installed a solar-powered system in Al Adabiya to store energy to power the unloader's air traffic obstruction light during the night when the diesel engine wasn't running.

The solar panels enable the customer to observe relevant safety regulations without having to make additional capital investments in electrical installations, Buhler said. n