Reacting to political and economic changes around the world as well as to the needs of their customers, shiploading and unloading suppliers have experienced strong business activity and unveiled new technological developments in the past year.
Port managers have very specific needs, which they often express to their unloading and handling suppliers. These needs most recently have involved customized handling solutions, improved after-sales service and increased equipment reliability and capacity.
"In general, an increased interest can be noticed for after-sales services and facility management," said Arne Nystroem, BMH Marine AB, Bjuv, Sweden. "Recent orders for after-sales services include maintenance, duty systems, and remote diagnostics."
Customers are demanding a flexible approach since their business activities also are changing at a faster pace, said Wilhelm Herzmann, director of Buhler AG’s port terminals and storage systems business unit, based in Uzwil, Switzerland.
Turn-key projects from a single supplier, shorter delivery times, financing solutions and competent customer service rank high on customers’ lists, he said.
"Like any other business, [ports] depend on the high rate of availability of their resources at any point in time," Herzmann said. "Availability, reliability, durability and dependability to perform a given task are of major concern. Furthermore, the quality of the handling process is very important too, since deterioration or degradation of the product due to mechanical, thermal or other impacts must be kept to a minimum."
Andreas Haeuser, technical manager for Germany-based Hartmann Förderanlagen GmbH, said the company’s customers are most concerned with equipment reliability. In response, Hartmann designs shiploading and unloading units to be in operation 24 hours a day, with minimal time required for service and maintenance.
"After-sales service is still important and will be in the future, as well as shorter delivery times for spare parts and technical support from the manufacturers in all areas of the grain handling sector," Haeuser said. "Customers are requesting us to shorten the time for cleaning and ship hatches. In addition, the unloading rate is always a major concern."
Neuero customers also have voiced the need for high capacities.
"Customers want higher capacity units at lower cost, fast response and solution analysis for their own particular problems," said Jack Fox, vice-president of sales, Neuero. "Decision makers at port terminals want to be sure that they make the correct decision and can rely on the supplier in case of problems or emergencies."
Vigan Engineering SA, based in Nivelles, Belgium, also has had requests for reliable operation and increased after-sales services, but environmental aspects are becoming increasingly important in order to meet the demands of new port authority regulations regarding noise and dust, said Lucian Beauduin, president. Port terminal elevator managers are most concerned with safety systems, and they require dust explosion safety devices, he added.
Vigan installs non-polluting devices on ship unloaders, such as suction filters at all chutes and telescopic chutes for truck and railcar loading.
The issue of handling identity-preserved grains is not yet a hot topic for port managers. On the whole, shiploading and unloading suppliers did not say their customers were concerned with the identififcation of genetically modified organisms (GMO).
TECHNOLOGY IN USE. Developing new technology and fine-tuning adjustments to already existing lines of shipunloaders and loaders are core to meeting the demands of port managers and other customers.
For Neuero, the engineering ability to offer customized solutions using standard equipment is one of the company’s strengths, Fox said.
"The 1,000-tonne-per-hour shipunloaders delivered to Indonesia and the 2,000-tph post-Panamax shiploader in Brazil represent the size of equipment that Neuero and our technology partner Maquinas Condor are capable of providing," he said.
Recently, Neuero delivered a new 300-tph Multiport unloader to General Milling Corporation in Cebu, Philippines. "This is part of a capacity expansion that, together with the 10-year-old Multiport M250, increases the facility’s intake capacity to 550 tph," he added.
A cooperative agreement with Stolz SA of France and Spain resulted in a new mobile Multiport M280 delivered to Silos Canarios in the Canary Islands for unloading a variety of grains and meals. The pneunmatic unit is equipped with sound insulation and dust suppression.
Neuero also completed a new fixed-barge unloading facility for URC-Continental Milling in Manila, Philippines. "The project included a specially designed suction boom to meet environmental restrictions, and mechanical conveying equipment to the silos was provided," Fox noted.
According to Nystroem, BMH Marine is continuing to develop shipunloaders and loaders for any size vessel and any handling capacity in different unloader applications, such as stationary, rail-mounted, wheel-mounted and mobile mechanical and pneumatic types.
BMH Marine’s pneumatic PortMaster unloader includes a positive displacement blower for efficient conveying and low noise level in addition to a highly efficient filter separator ensuring minimal dust emission. Available in capacities up to 600 tph, the PortMaster is available in stationary, tire-mounted or rail-bound units, and can be mounted on a gantry, either as a self-propelled unit or as a towable machine.
Six PortMaster pneumatic shipunloaders supplied to AJWA-RMTI, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, have been in operation since May 2001, Nystroem said. With an unloading rate of 200 tph each, the unloaders are used on ships up to 100,000 dead weight tonnes.
Hartmann Förderanlagen reports strong business in all three of its business fields of pneumatic shiploading and unloading, hot coke suction systems, and mechanical conveying systems. Most of its business activity has been in North America, Europe and the Middle East region.
In its primary field of pneumatic shipunloading, Hartmann is now commissioning an order from a customer in Austria for a new stationary 150-tph pneumatic shipunloader for grain and sunflower seeds. The unit was to have been in full service by mid-October.
The unloader is a new design from Hartmann and was completed in nearly eight months, including engineering, fabrication, erection and commissioning.
With this new, low-cost design, Hartmann hopes to strengthen and improve its position in the grain handling market, Haeuser said. Furthermore, new unloaders with a similar design up to 500 tph, either on rails or with bogie wheels, are being developed.
Buhler AG has been involved in several new projects that are currently in various states of completion.
"This year, our pneumatic shipunloader, the Portanova, has been successfully launched," Herzmann said. "In addition, the newest Mobilpneumat generation has been developed and launched. It completes our existing program of unloaders in the lower capacity range."
According to Herzmann, Buhler has been busy completing projects for Emirates Flour & Animal Feed Factory in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; International Foodstuffs Co. in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; and for China Dalian Beiliang Co. in Dalian, China.
Vigan has had one of its busiest years, according to Beauduin, and its workshop has been operating at maximum capacity. The bulk of Vigan’s business is now in European Union countries and its associated and future members, Beauduin added.
Vigan’s pneumatic process is a sealed capture system against dust spillage, dirty air and other nuisances.
"Massive new opportunities with few environmental and traffic constraints exist in the development of European fluvial-maritime transport and cargo handling along the Europe inland rivers and waterways," Beauduin said.
New mills and terminals are installing Vigan equipment at seaport facilities along the Rhine, the Seine and the Thames rivers and along canals and ports in France, Belgium, England, Holland, Germany and Poland, he said.
On the Seine River near Paris, three different flour mills, including Les Grands Moulins de Paris in Gennevilliers, Les Grands Moulins de Corbeil and Les Grands Moulins de Pantin, have recently invested in Vigan static shipunloaders.
In Holland, Vigan has supplied new unloaders to Cargill in Bergen-op-zoom and to the Heineken Brewery in s’Hertogenbosch.
Vigan also supplied a shipunloader in the Port of Crotone, Italy, and a 300-tph unloader in Krefled, Germany, to Cerestar AG. Two mobile units equipped with special filters were recently installed at Rijeka Port, Croatia.
In addition, Vigan has commissioned several installations in China, Singapore, Central and South America, Algeria, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
GLOBAL IMPLICATIONS. Globalization of grain trade and grain marketing increases every year. While the integration of global markets benefits all countries buying and selling grain, the new large-scale grain market is susceptible to market downturns that originate in only one country.
"In general, the grain trading market is still increasing, which creates new opportunities," said Herzmann. "However, the recent political turmoil and economic uncertainties [since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in the U.S.] have an unprecedented impact on the outlook and confidence of the business communities. Particularly, the markets in the Middle East and some parts in Africa are under a cloud."
Herzmann said Buhler has witnessed the China market as the primary active force during the past years in the Asian and Indonesian regions. "In the meantime, the focus has shifted to the Middle East," he said. "However, the political situation makes it virtually impossible to anticipate the immediate future; the market will be probably very unstable."
Beauduin points out that negative circumstances of the economy have direct influence on the world transport business. On the positive side, he noted that the global market situation does help customers make real comparisons and decisions.
Neuero’s Fox also recognizes many of the strengths and weaknesses of the global market.
"Globalization is making business easier, but the political and financial problems in developing countries make it difficult for long-term investments," he said. "In the mid-1990s, we saw a boom in Asia, especially in Indonesia. After the political changes in Russia and the economic problems in the Middle East, the long-term investments slowed down or even stopped."
BMH Marine has observed less of a shift in the global market and more of a balancing of business activity.
"In general, a large part of our business came from Asia and North America in the past," Nystroem said. "We now see a change to a more equal balance between mainly Europe, Asia and North America.
"The current slow down of the international economic situation affects the possibilities to perform new business, whereas after sales services and spare parts are much in demand for existing equipment," he continued. "It seems the market is in a kind of waiting position, holding new investments back."