With grain production continuing to increase in South America and Asia, the demand for new ship loading and unloading equipment in those areas continues to flourish.

However, turmoil, particularly in Ukraine, is affecting last year’s existing trade routes and, consequently, the investments, according to suppliers who responded to World Grain’s annual survey of the world’s major ship loader and unloader manufacturers.

Ukraine, a major wheat exporter for years, is struggling to keep its wheat flowing. But other nations take advantage of that, and see their chance to increase their business, one supplier said. Another noted a surprising uptick in orders from Europe, the first increase in many years. Countries recovering from internal crisis and/or war have an acute need for food, another supplier said.

These emerging markets are demanding high-capacity equipment because they are typically handling larger volumes. In South America, new terminals are handling up to 5 million tonnes of grain per year, one supplier said.

But regions that are recovering from a crisis or war also present a military or political situation that is unstable, creating risks for project execution.

Another supplier said it has booked multiple projects for high capacity unloaders, mostly mechanical. Advantages of this type of unloader include low power consumption, ease of use and reduced maintenance.

The contracts are for mobile unloaders based on tires, but also on available tracks. Stationary versions are less requested due to the somewhat limited working range through which the vessels need to be moved during unloading. Especially with larger sea going vessels, any movement is very costly.

New developments

Manufacturers are constantly working to improve equipment in response to customer feedback and changing government regulations. Customers are demanding equipment that is easy and safe to operate, is low maintenance and features reduced dust emissions and noise.

In response, Neuero, based in Melle, Germany, has developed during the last 10 years its “kick in, kick out” (KIKO) loading system with controlled flow head to eliminate dust problems. At every transfer point, dust problems can occur, with height difference being a key factor. The farther the grain falls, the higher the speed. Speed makes the air separate the dust from the grain flow.

Loading systems without dust suppression were popular in the past because of the low equipment weight at lower costs. The only objective was to fill the hatch; environmental protection was not an issue as it is today. Examples of these types of systems include vertical or inclined spots, loading rotating spoons and jet slingers.

Today, dust control measures are normally required. This has resulted in development of loading bellows with skirts and chokers. These systems have worked worldwide with varying degrees of success. They can work well depending on the type of product being loaded, its dust content and constant flow, Neuero said.

The problem is getting a constant speed, specifically at the end of the loading pipe when the product falls from a height of 20 meters. For more efficient dust suppression, the product speed must be slowed down at output. The cascade system and the controlled flow head reduce grain speed, and breakage.

Neuero said its KIKO movement provides dust suppression, low material breakage and less wear along with the kick in, kick out movements to allow a bigger working range equivalent to having a horizontal movement.

The horizontal movement is a must in fixed loading towers and also is good in mobile ones, if additional equipment is located on the same jetty, Neuero said. Another advantage depends on the ship’s hatch shape. The inclined movement helps to more efficiently fill the hatch.

Other major concerns for grain handlers in loading and unloading are the costs and uptime of the plant. Bühler, Uzwil, Switzerland, has responded with development of the Portalink and Portaload systems. Portalink was designed to decrease operating costs due to low power consumption and high efficiency through easy operating use.

Portaload offers two loading concepts: stationary and mobile. The stationary version is based on a tower principle with three to four towers each equipped with a loading spout. This provides for high capacity loading combined with a high hatch filling rate, Bühler said.

The mobile version can operate on tires or rails. In response to customer feedback, the mobile loader has been completely redesigned to load product as efficiently as possible and be easy to use.

It has no hydraulics, which adds to the ease of use, lowers its weight and power usage. The reduced weight reduces the requirements of current pier installations.

The operating system has been upgraded to the latest market standard with increased functionalities such as a touch panel directly presenting error messages, individual selection of each motor and sensor, which saves time during loading and unloading. A detailed picture of the installation integrated in the software where the individual sensors are situated, makes it easier to identify and optimize the operating efficiency, Bühler said.

VIGAN, based in Nivelles, Belgium, is also continuously making improvements to its pneumatic unloaders to decrease power consumption. The company said it has reached 0.55 kilowatts per tonne, closing the traditional gap between mechanical and pneumatic unloaders in terms of consumption.

Pneumatic unloaders are more efficient, as well as cheaper and easier to maintain, VIGAN said. It anticipates pneumatic unloaders will have a majority of the market, leaving mechanical unloaders mostly for very large terminals. VIGAN promotes its Simporter mechanical unloaders, with a pneumatic complement, for terminals unloading more than 2 to 3 million tonnes.

VIGAN said it continues to see repeat business from customers, and offers long-term after sales support. The company still has detailed, hand-written drawings from the 1980s, which helps in supplying spare parts for unloaders that are more than 30 years old.

“You cannot be happier when a customer tells you, ‘I am happy with my Vigan for the last 22 years, thanks to you my business is growing and I can buy a second, not to replace the first one, but to increase annual volume,’” VIGAN said.

New Brazilian port helps soybean trade

When Bunge Brazil planned its new Terfron bulk export terminal in Barcarena, Pará state, Brazil, it needed a reliable, high capacity ship unloader to discharge soybeans arriving by barges of up to 2,500 dwt.

Excellent environmental credentials were essential and there was also a short lead time for realizing the project. The new terminal was constructed primarily to increase the export capacity for soybeans grown in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state and transported to the coast by truck and barge.

It has relieved the pressure on existing east coast ports, where frequent long delays have restricted the expansion of Brazil’s soybean trade. Further northern terminals are planned, with farmers expecting that these will eventually handle over half of Brazil’s soybean exports.

Siwertell, which is part of Helsinki, Finland-based Cargotec Corp., supplied a model ST-790M ship unloader for the project. It met all of Bunge Brazil’s needs, and short lead time. Bunge Brazil was aware of what it could expect from Siwertell because it was familiar with the Siwertell unloader in Manaus, Brazil.

The ship unloader for Bunge Brazil was designed in Sweden and manufactured in Sweden, Europe and China. It was then shipped to Brazil in parts (of which some was preassembled) for further assembly work on a local ship yard in Belem before sending assembled main parts to the customer’s site for final assembly, commissioning and tests. The agreed delivery time was 14 months on a turn-key basis.

The unloader provides discharge operations for barges delivering soybeans and corn to the new agri-bulk export terminal at the mouth of the Amazon River. It has a rated unload capacity of 1,500 tph for soybeans, 1,100 tph for soy meal and 1,500 tph for corn. Maximum barge size is 2,500 dwt.

Siwertell has received additional orders for ship unloaders from Cargill in Santarem and ADM in Barcarena.

North American port expansion

Bühler has received an order to upgrade an existing loading facility in North America. The project includes a new boom with a nominal capacity of 1,600 tph and the capability of handling Panamax II vessels. The facility primarily handles corn and wheat.

Dust suppression in France

Senalia in Rouen, France, visited several installations in Romania and Russia before selecting Neuero for upgrades to its facility. Neuero supplied two ship unloading systems to replace an existing crane and clamshell. In theory, the clamshell is rated to have more unloading capacity. However, due to actual operational conditions, the average unloading capacity is very low. The average crane capacity is limited to the operator efficiency, and often will result in spillage and dust. Additionally, the operator can cause damage to the ship and clamshell, causing the owner more expense.

Using a continuous pneumatic ship unloader makes it easier for the operator to achieve a higher average unloading efficiency, and because it is a vacuum operation, there is no spillage or dust, Neuero said.

Neuero also supplied the first 1,200 tph KIKO ship loader in central Europe with dust suppression. The unloading systems include a M300 with a capacity of 300 tph and a M500 model with a capacity of 500 tph.

Older loading technology involved spouts with nothing to control dust. Some also included “jet slingers” which generated even more dust, Neuero said.

The KIKO system controls the flow of grain coming out the end of the loading chute to reduce the dust to acceptable levels. The loading chute also has a kick in, kick out operation to be able to load the ships hold more efficiently.

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