Shiploading and unloading technology

by Emily Wilson
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Shiploaders and unloaders play a critical role in today’s global market for all types of grains, processed or raw. Over the past several years, this industry has seen a trend of clients needing increased loading and unloading capacities. As grain is being moved on bigger ships, port facilities must be prepared to keep up.

However, as unloading suppliers pointed out this year, a port facility has many other concerns surrounding its shiploaders or unloaders. One of the main issues topping the list is environmental concerns, primarily noise and dust. Reducing energy use, maintenance and manpower requirements are also common requests, as these are key to cutting costs at a facility.

"The industry is not after machines just to load or unload ships, but the request is for machines capable of performing without creating pollution — running with less noise and no dust are the highest priorities," said the GBS Group. "Simple and reliable technology is preferred, as this avoids unwanted and expensive downtime."

Facilities are also increasingly demanding unloaders as turn-key projects with single-source responsibility, Buhler said. Short delivery times, financing solutions and operation assistance are among the many requirements. In addition, customer service with 24-hour assistance is important.

Shiploader and unloader suppliers are also seeing contrasting elements in the global market situation, as requests for better quality equipment is being tempered by an uncertain global economy. Buhler has noticed that the increasing grain market and the awareness of environmental aspects are creating new opportunities. "On the other hand," Buhler said, "economic uncertainties have an impact on the outlook and confidence of the business communities, which results in a general reluctance to invest."

There are predictions, though, that population growth and changes in eating behaviors will lead to an increase in grain trading.

"There is no doubt that international cereals trade will increase," said Vigan. "Many countries are looking to reduce the amount of goods transported by road and improve transport by rivers or coastal vessels. "This market will surely be growing during the coming years," Vigan said.

The cutting edge

Striving to meet its customers’ needs, the GBS Group recently introduced an optional device for its unloaders that aids material flow in non-free-flowing product and can significantly increase unloading rates..

A vertical elevator is installed with a digger fitted onto the lower portion of a vertical boom.

The outer cylindrical digger cage is formed by vertical spiral blades, where segments of shark-like teeth are bolted on. When the digger rotates, the teeth can slice through and break apart compacted product. The digger bottom is cone-shaped and lined with the same type of blades and interchangeable "Shark" teeth for perforating and digging.

The vertical chain elevator inside the vertical boom extends to the bottom of the digger for better feeding. Product loosened by the digger is picked up and lifted to the elevator head by a specially shaped chain.

GBS said this system provides significant power savings, claiming about 60% less power consumption than pneumatic unloaders. Various products can be handled, including maize, wheat, barley and soybeans and non-free-flowing commodities such as pelleted and ground grain, maize gluten and soymeal.

The GBS Group recently shipped two mechanical Transmec 300 ship unloaders to Inferflour Vietnam Ltd.’s flour mill at Vung Tao Port. Capable of unloading wheat at 300 tonnes per hour (tph) on ships up to 60,000 dwt, the unloaders are rail mounted and will be operational in November.

A Transmec 400 will shortly be delivered to the Port of Imman Momeini, Iran, to unload 120,000 dwt ships of wheat and other products at 400 tph.

At the Jebel Ali Port in Dubai, U.A.E., the Gulf Import & Export Co. has ordered a Transload 800 mechanical loader to handle soymeal and other non-free-flowing products at 650 tph.

Creating options

Research and development at Buhler AG over the past few years has resulted in the introduction of two new pneumatic ship unloaders, the Portanova and the Mobilpneumat, completing Buhler’s product line in the lower capacity range.

Sarantopoulos Mills S.A in Greece has installed the Portanova. Inadequate port infrastructure, including the absence of electric power, rail tracks and a belt conveyor system, led the company to choose the Portanova, Buhler said. The Portanova is based on a modular concept to shorten the assembly time and prevent assembly errors. As port installations often lack fixed belt conveyor systems, the Portanova is equipped with two outlets for loading trucks. Its large diesel tank holds 4,800 liters, making this unit capable of uninterrupted operation for about three days. To prevent wear and jamming by foreign objects, it uses a split airlock valve that is monitored electronically for overloading. When jammed, the airlock rotor reverses its direction of rotation a number of times to clear the passage again in the airlock rotor. A PLC control system monitors airlock functions, and a radio control system enables the Portanova to be operated from the ship. With these features, the customer benefits from low capital investment, easy maintenance, and low operating costs paired with high mobility and dependability, Buhler said.

The Mobilpneumat is designed for use where stationary loaders or unloaders are not allowed. The versatile unit can be used to load or unload ships, barges, trucks and rail cars, and it also can be used for turning product in storage operations. Throughput rate is about 150 tph.

Buhler has also recently installed two Portalink unloaders at the Xizui Grain Terminal in Dalian, China. With an unloading capacity up to 1,200 tph, the unloaders discharge vessels up to 80,000 dwt in about four days. Buhler provided a two-part training session to terminal employees.

Buhler has also completed or commissioned several other projects in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Estonia, and the Philippines.

Expanding product line

BMH Marine has been constructing its mechanical, screw-type Siwertell ship unloaders since 1974. Aiming to better serve grain terminals, BMH in the late 1990s started developing a new pneumatic ship unloader with capacity up to 550 tph for unloading vessel sizes up to 120,000 dwt.

The new unloader includes a positive displacement blower and a modular design, ensuring a cost-efficient unloader that is adaptable to different power sources and suitable for various installation options.

A positive displacement blower allows constant airflow even at high suction levels, while maintaining low energy consumption throughout the unloading process. The displacement blower self-regulates during unloading, so it uses less energy than a turbo blower, BMH said.

Because the PortMaster unloader has a modular design, the same part can be used for different applications. For instance, the machine house design is the same even if the capacity changes or the boom length changes. The slewing part is the same regardless of whether travelling on rails, on rubber wheels or stationary mounted. Though each machine is tailor-made, it is made up of standardized components for highest reliability and low maintenance.

The first contract for six units of the pneumatic PortMaster came from the bulk grain storage and processing company AJWA-RMTI at the Port of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Delivered in 2001, the 200-tph machines discharge vessels up to 100,000 dwt. The unloaders discharge directly to trucks via a chain conveyor. There are two outlets from the chain conveyor to allow continuous unloading.

With the addition of the PortMaster pneumatic ship unloader, BMH Marine can supply a ship unloader at capacities from 200 tph to 2,400 tph, to be used with the smallest barge up to 180,000 dwt vessels.

BMH will soon deliver two Siwertell unloaders to Yemen Company for Industrial Investment, Hodeidah, Yemen. The unloaders will be rail-mounted and used for the discharge of Panamax ships at 600 tph each for wheat.

Preparing for a bright future

Vigan Engineering S.A. is continuously looking for new technologies to meet the major concerns of energy consumption, material resistance to wear, environmental and safety issues.

Vigan said its pneumatic unloaders achieve energy consumption at 0.6 kilowatt per tonne, and it is researching electronic devices that will further save power. The company has also developed special alloys and new techniques for metal covering to increase equipment life.

To control noise and dust pollution, new insulation techniques and new filtration materials are being used. Vigan has also been reviewing its manufacturing and equipment design in attempts to promote safety.

Providing individual solutions based on each project is critical, Vigan said. It foresees a market that will be increasingly more specialized, with higher standards being adopted by major and modern port operators. It also predicts that the main market developments will occur in medium-size equipment, 200 to 400 tph capacity.

Since the beginning of 2002, many Vigan projects have been confirmed.

From Europe, Vigan has seen mainly orders of tower-type machines with capacities ranging from 150 to 300 tph for private companies, including Cargill in the U.K. and Brewery Albert in Belgium. In South America, larger unloaders from 300 to 400 tph have been ordered from Peru. Vigan also delivered barge unloaders for a new plant along the Amazon river in Santarém, Brazil. Vigan has also been working on projects in Egypt, Algeria and Iraq, the Philippines, China and Bangladesh.

Customizing solutions

Neuero is busy working around the world on several projects. Being able to offer customized solutions using standard equipment is one of the company’s strengths, Neuero said.

For example, in Bangladesh, Neuero delivered a mobile pneumatic ship unloader, type GSD TA12, that was supplied with a bagging plant. Combined with a previously delivered Neuero unloader, this client can now unload vessels, weigh the material, bag the material, and directly load trucks or send it to a storage facility.

In the Philippines, the Foremost Milling Corp. has requested Neuero redesign an existing ship unloader to increase capacity at the company’s Iloilo facility. The customized design includes the replacement of existing rotary blowers with Neuero-designed turbo blowers. Conveying lines to accept the increased capacity will also be supplied. Neuero worked with this client two years ago when it supplied a 500 tph unloader to this client’s facility near Manila.

Neuero has also seen the client demand for environmental protection. Before a Neuero unloader could be delivered to one client in Belgium, Neuero’s GSD unloader had to successfully pass a trial testing the unloader’s product degradation and environmental control.

Other Neuero projects include two GSD 8110D portable unloaders soon to be commissioned for Andigrain in Ecuador. The unloaders will assist in the logistics of moving grain and meals discharged from ships at the Andipuerto facility in Guayaquil.

Flexibility is definitely important to clients. In the U.S., Perdue Farms will install a new multi-purpose Neuero Multiport ship and barge unloader at its Chesapeake, Virginia, facility. The stationary unloader will have 500-tph capacity and a 30-meter suction boom, capable of discharging Panamax vessels on one side of the finger pier and river barges on the opposite side of the finger pier.


Don’t overfill that barge!!

River and inland facilities now have a new tool to help prevent overloading and grounding of barges. Norwood & Company has introduced the Accudraft 2000 to help accurately load barges to the maximum depth without overloading, while at the same time improving the safety of personnel. The Accudraft 2000 conducts ultrasonic measurements from the barge, eliminating the need for personnel to remain on the barge at the time of loading to conduct sight draft readings, rod or tape sounding. Four strategically placed ultrasonic sensors on the barge measure simultaneously, and loading reports are sent to the loading shack or transmitted to the office through a local area network. This allows for the most precise loading in all conditions. Regardless of the commodity, the Accudraft prevents overloading — and any monetary fine incurred — for the most profitable shipments. Increased safety is the Accudraft’s most important feature. Personnel need only be on the barge long enough to secure the ultrasonic devices before loading begins, reducing the possibility of someone falling overboard during loading.