While international suppliers of ship loading and unloading equipment have had to adjust to the new realities of the great recession — credit for large projects has been harder to come by and projects have become more complex and require more partners — demand remains strong for equipment to replace older, less efficient models. Suppliers told World Grain that demand remains strong in many of the world’s grain import/export hotspots. North Africa and the Middle East topped the list along with the Far East (mostly China), while South America and Eastern Europe were also seen as active areas of growth.
NEUERO Industrietechnik, Melle, Germany, told World Grain that the initial impact of the financial downturn was almost a complete stop in interest for the larger projects. But after about six months, most clients realized they needed to improve their operational efficiencies, so the projects have resumed.
NEUERO said many new facilities are partnering with an international collaborator to assist with securing financing. The company said currently credit lines are more difficult to obtain because the international banking system has lost its tolerance for risk since the beginning of the recession. There is not an instrument working to replace or improve the failed rating mechanisms.
VIGAN Engineering S.A, Nivelles, Belgium, told World Grain that not all continents have been affected the same way by the crisis, and therefore, as grains are a basic staple food in many countries, many governments and/or private companies have continued their investments. The company noted that most of its customers are increasing their technical and general requirements through private and/or public tenders. VIGAN said more complex questionnaires have to be filed and submitted with the commercial offers. "The global market situation is indeed making the competition more complex, and in other cases, a slower process due to more impediments to complete the financing of the projects."
Buhler AG, Uzwil, Switzerland, told World Grain that liquidity issues and customer expectations for lower steel prices delayed projects in 2008, but ever since commodity prices came back down to an acceptable level in the second quarter of 2009, investments clearly have restarted. "All in all, it can be said that the future is looking quite promising."
Buhler said the ship unloader/loader business is somewhat driven by the increasing demand for grain, increasing world population and changing eating habits, such as the increase in meat consumption, and also by changing grain trading patterns.
Buhler said it has noticed changes in its customers’ expectations for grain storage. "Professional storage solutions are more and more important to guarantee the best possible yields and to protect the valuable raw product." The company said traceability requirements have increased throughout the complete process chain, from the grain producer all the way to the end consumer.
GBS Group, Padova, Italy, told World Grain there was a slowdown in many projects as planners waited for the global markets to improve, but in recent months, requests for new projects have returned to a high level. GBS noted its customers’ orders have varied, depending on geography.
"Generally speaking, the majority of requests for new equipment are coming from the Far East, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe," GBS said. "The demand ranges from sea port to riverside facilities. The products being handled are either free-flowing grains or non-free-flowing commodities like soy meal.
"In the Far East and Indian Sub-Continent, demand is for either new facilities to increase the handling capacity of those areas or enlarging of existing facilities. In Africa, we have a lot of requests for new grain terminals."
MacGREGOR Bulk Handling, Bjuv, Sweden, said it has seen a few financing issues, but they only affected new projects, not ongoing ones. The company said it is currently involved in several grain handling projects in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Russia/CIS.
OLD AND NEW DEMANDS
The global grain industry’s port facilities continue to have traditional demands of their ship loading/unloading equipment, such as investment and operational costs, efficient transfer of product and environmental consideration. But new challenges are driving the need for innovation.
NEUERO commented that most of its clients are now requesting slewing capability instead of the old-design fixed loaders. "Slewing movement gives a freedom of movement which makes the loader more flexible and easier to work with various ship sizes. This also makes maintenance easier and improves the ability to clean the system if contamination is a concern."
VIGAN said the major issues continue to be the same as before — high technical reliability and low cost operation, energy, maintenance and manpower. But increasingly, continuous controls of the equipment are requested for constant monitoring of the handling performances and good maintenance practices. "It means more sophisticated equipment. Reliability will more and more depend on sensors and similar devices. This means more complex machines," VIGAN said.
The challenge, VIGAN said, is to evaluate with customers their real capability of managing and maintaining similar machines with state-of-the art automation in relation with their human resources capability. "Technical requirements in developed countries are not necessarily a must as in other countries, where less qualified technicians quite frequently have lower capabilities for delicate automation, for instance," VIGAN said.
"In all countries, the environmental aspects are becoming increasingly important and becoming a significant factor of technological differentiation between the competitors and/or the technologies."
Buhler noted that unloading times remain crucial and a major focus for all its customers. But most customers do not have a strong focus on unloading across the vessel. They mainly compare capacities of machines instead of full unloading performance.
"After the Baltic Dry Index came down from its record high, some customers again started paying less attention to unloading times," Buhler said. "But as the index is on the rise again in 2009, it seems more and more clear that freight costs will remain high in the future. So faster unloading must be important for everybody."
Buhler said it is currently working on an unloading model that helps customers improve unloading times of vessels. "The Buhler AG focus is to improve interaction between all pier installations, not only improving throughputs of single machines. With this total view approach, we can help customers to make the best of all their equipment."
GBS said its customers continue to demand units that are fully equipped with dust filters, and they want equipment with costeffective power consumption. The company said its customers also want their investment costs and operational costs to be optimal. GBS said that in order to reduce the investment costs, when feasible, it is manufacturing the steel structure locally.
MacGREGOR said its customers are still increasing ship sizes and demanding quicker turnaround times. The company said it provides highly efficient ship unloaders and loaders and provides equipment with very high rated capacity.
NEUERO gave World Grain a few examples of projects it recently developed in the Middle East and Europe. In Oman, it provided Oman Flour Mills with a Multiport M600 unloader, which has a 600-tph capacity, and also in Oman, NEUERO supplied Salalah Flour Mills with a Multiport M300 unloader, which has a 300-tph capacity. It supplied Cairo IIIA’s Egyptian facility with two Multiport M600 unloaders, each with a 600-tph capacity.
In Germany, NEUERO supplied Cargill Mainz with a combined loader/unloader fixed tower design with a 200/150-tph capacity, and Avangard Malt with a combined loader/unloader design with a 100/150-tph capacity.
VIGAN told World Grain that among its most recent projects, a few were in Egypt. In Africa, it supplied Africa for Silos & Warehousing with an NIV 500, which has a 500-tph capacity.
In August 2008, VIGAN commissioned the first SIMPORTER. It has a 1,200-tph capacity for grain and an 800-tph capacity for oilseeds.
VIGAN said that later this year it will be installing several machines for customers in Iran.
Buhler told World Grain that it has built a new grain ship unloading terminal in Suape, Pernambuco State, Brazil for Bunge. The latest generation of the Portalink, which was installed in Suape, can unload wheat from Panamax ships at a capacity of 800 tph.
Buhler said this unloading system, which reduces energy consumption, moves approximately 300 meters (m) along Suape’s quay, has a distance of 18 m between rails and can be commanded with a radio control by an operator.
The Portalink feeds a system of four belt conveyors that carry the product from the quay to the mill located at a distance of 2 kilometers (km) from the dock.
Buhler said the Suape facility’s belt conveyors have different lengths that range from 250 m to 1 km. The installation also included a dust aspiration system, electrical installation and command. The total installed power is 825 kW.
After the order was placed for the Suape facility, Buhler said its crew started working on the project details in September 2007. Parts were ready for installation by end of April 2008, and the installation was completed and accepted by February 2009.
GBS told World Grain that it recently installed two 1,000-tph capacity continuous mechanical, chain-type unloaders in Shanghai, China. The customer was Shanghai Liangyou Group Co., and the unloaders were installed in the Shanghai Waigaoqiao grain reserve depot and terminal facilities. The unloaders will service ships at this facility with capacities up to 70,000 dwt. Each installed unloader can travel on rails having a centerline of 10.5 m.
GBS said a specially designed system allows continuous feeding from the unloaders to the two belt conveyors mounted on a concrete structure. The unloaders were designed by GBS’ technical department according to FEM standards.
All mechanical, electrical and hydraulic components were manufactured and delivered from Italy, while the steel structure was manufactured locally on GBS design.
The operation of the unloaders can be performed either from the operator cabin or by wireless remote control. A 15-tonne hoist was installed to lift the payloader inside the hatch for final cleaning.
GBS said it has reached a maximum consumption of 700 amps at the rate of 1,200 tph, which means about 0.2 kWh/ tonne, while the power consumption registered during the complete unloading of a 40,000 dwt ship was 0.34 kWh/ tonne (below the guaranteed contractual figure of 0.37 kWh/tonne).
MacGREGOR told World Grain that in 2008 it started up two Siwertell 490-F mechanical screw-type ship unloaders for a newly built grain terminal in Jorf Lasfar, Morocco. Each unloader at the Jorf Lasfar facility has a rated capacity of 400 tph and is capable of unloading Panamax-sized ships. The terminal operator and investor is Mass Cereales Al Maghreb S.A.
In 2009, MacGREGOR started up two Siwertell 490-F mechanical screw-type ship unloaders for a newly built grain terminal in Casablanca, Morocco. Each Siwertell 490-F unloader has a rated capacity of 600 tph and is capable of unloading Panamax-sized ships. The terminal operator and investor is Mass Cereales Al Maghreb S.A.
In 2008, MacGREGOR started up one Siwertell 490-M mechanical screw-type ship unloader for an existing grain terminal in Lagos, Nigeria. The unloader has a rated capacity of 600 tph and is capable of unloading 75,000 dwt ships. The terminal operator and investor is Flour Mills of Nigeria plc.