Two VIGAN NIV 600-tph ship unloaders at Dammam port in Saudi Arabia.
Photo courtesy of VIGAN.
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Updating outdated infrastructure and addressing environmental concerns are two of the major issues facing ship loading and unloading companies across the globe, according to suppliers who responded to World Grain’s annual survey of the world’s major ship loader and unloader manufacturers.

Port operators are faced with operating old, outdated equipment that needs to be replaced. It is difficult to justify the investment in new equipment when the old equipment is still functional. But, after installing the new efficient equipment, the improved operating results are seen immediately.

One supplier noted that port operators need to carefully plan the replacement of old equipment before there is a major failure that puts them out of operation.

New terminals and equipment are typically representing the high-end capacity range and demanding innovative application of existing technologies or completely new solutions. Customers who in the past thought mechanical unloaders were the most efficient are now returning to pneumatic design.

High volumes are also typically increasing ocean freight in big vessels (instead of local supply in smaller vessels), setting higher demands especially for discharging equipment but also for the whole terminal system. Overall, grain terminal operators are demanding efficiency, reliability, low dust and noise emissions, low operating and maintenance costs, simplified operations and as much automation as possible.

Despite remaining challenges due to various political crises in the Middle East and Africa, along with embargoes that control material flow to various countries, suppliers report that orders for equipment are up or holding steady for 2017.

Russia is a hot spot for projects as the nation increases grain exports and is in desperate need of enhanced export infrastructure in the Black Sea region. North America is also a busy region as it slowly catches up with retrofitting old export infrastructure to stay competitive with new grain exporters.

Southeast Asia is developing new grain terminals to supply the growing population with grain and oilseeds. Some of China’s new grain terminal projects are on hold due to economic reasons, but are expected to be reactivated in the next several years.

Brazil is investing in inland transportation with new rail lines as well as import/export terminals to reduce logistics costs and improve competitiveness. Import terminals also are in demand in North Africa and the Middle East.

A Siwertell grain unloader of 1,500 tph for barges up to 2,000 dwt, in Barcarena, Brazil.
Photo courtesy of Siwertell.

New Technology

Grain terminal owners and operators face limited use of jetties because they do not own them. This limits their opportunities to use rail-mounted mechanical high-efficiency unloaders and to build fixed jetty conveying systems from the jetty to silos.

As a result, many operators are forced to transfer the grain from the vessel to the silos with trucks. This limits the capacity of the unloaders to 600 to 800 tph, making the process less effective and more expensive.

In response, Siwertell AB, based in Bjuv, Sweden, introduced a standardized wheel-based unloader for grain that can load directly to two to three trucks. This gives small and medium-sized grain import terminals a low-budget alternative that is fitting to their CAPEX frames.

Communication with existing customers helps Neuero, based in Melle, Germany, learn what is needed to improve on future equipment. As a result, the company is now making its own winches. It also created an efficient direct blower drive that includes sensors to monitor bearing temperature, electric motor winding temperature and any vibration.

Neuero’s new rubber tire traveling system uses a frequency inverter controlled by the unloader PLC. Various present travel modes and continuous steering during traveling allow positioning from one hold to another.

The company also has introduced the Smartport design for unloading river barges and small ships. The pneumatic unloader can be stationary, on rails or rubber tires and is for capacities from 200 tph to 400 tph.

Bühler, based in Uzwil, Switzerland, is presently completing the standardization process of a new Portaload family in the ship-loading capacity range between 800 tph and 3,000 tph. The goal was to upgrade the Portaload to the latest technology while reducing the product and engineering cost to make the best possible product affordable for all customers.

Bühler further developed PROPLANT, a special computer-based service management system that integrates maintenance instructions of all components and digital spare part catalogs. This makes it easier to identify and order spare parts. PROPLANT further provides automated daily/weekly preventive maintenance job lists depending on time, working hours and actual condition of equipment monitored by special sensors. This allows Bühler customers to do the right preventive maintenance at the right time between two vessels to substantially increase the availability and performance of loading and unloading equipment while in operation.

A ship loader with a transfer capacity of 1,500 tonnes supplied by Neuero was a highlight of an expansion by Terminales Graneleras Uruguayas S.A. in Uruguay.
Photo courtesy of Neuero.

Uruguay port increases capacity

Terminales Graneleras Uruguayas S.A. (TGU) recently completed a $25 million project to increase its operational capacity at its port in Nueva Palmira, Uruguay. The expansion included: new module equipment with a ship loader, conveyor belts and scales; three vertical silos with a storage capacity of 10,000 tonnes; a discharging platform for trucks; and a second barge unloading station at the coastal dock with a corresponding scale.

The highlight of the entire investment was a ship loader with a transfer capacity of 1,500 tonnes, supplied by Neuero. The ship loader makes it possible to load vessels with larger-than-usual sizes. It is environmentally friendly, representing the latest development in harbor dust emission control.

With the expansion, the terminal has significantly increased its export speed. In the early 2000s, TGU handled about 300,000 tonnes of grain per year. That number has increased to more than 2 million tonnes now, and TGU aims to increase it more with the expanded facility.

Storage at the facility increased 44% from 68,000 to 98,000 tonnes while vessel loading speed increased 75%. Barge unloading speed more than tripled from 600 to 2,100 tph while truck unloading increased from 650 to 1,050 tph.

“The development of the ocean dock enables us to coordinate actions with the coastal dock to speed up grain-related operations,” said Christian Bolz, chairman of the TGU. “Our goal is to make transport by sea the most convenient option, thereby decongesting roads and boosting the integration of the entire logistic system.”

Floating terminal adds compact unloader

Cargill Agricola S/A planned to more than double its capacity of soybean and maize processing at its site at Santarém, Brazil, on the Amazon River so it needed an effective and environmentally-sensitive method for unloading bulk soybean shipments arriving by barge at its riverside terminal. Prior to the expansion the terminal exported 2 million tonnes per year; it now exports 5 million tonnes.

Barges bound for Santarém are typically loaded in Porto Velho, bringing agribulk cargoes from the west of the state of Mato Grosso via the Madeira and Amazon rivers. Ocean-going vessels departing from Santarém with grain cargoes are normally bound for ports in Central America, Europe and Asia.

With a tidal range of as much as eight meters, unloading operations alongside a conventional fixed concrete jetty structure are difficult. To solve that problem, Cargill opted for a floating terminal so the rise and fall of the tide wouldn’t impact its position in relation to the barges being unloaded.

Siwertell’s compact and light weight unloader with low energy consumption and good environmental credentials was an ideal fit for the new floating jetty.

At the end of 2012, Cargill ordered from Siwertell an ST 790-M fully-enclosed screw-type barge unloader with a rated capacity of 1,500 tph. The terminal was designed by Interocean, and Siwertell worked closely with the company to design the appropriate ship unloader. The company unloader was able to fit under the roof of the floating terminal.

Components for the unloader were built in Sweden and China for final commissioning on site.

Early in assembly, interference was identified between the unloader and existing conveyor equipment. Siwertell said it was able to deal with the issue in a satisfactory timeframe, and ironed out other small issues during the commissioning process.

Existing bulk conveying and storage infrastructure had to be changed to cope with the terminal’s increased discharging capabilities. Three metal silos were added to the land-based storage and new conveyor belts were installed to serve the floating terminal. Bucket elevators link these with the existing belt conveyor system, which was modified to operate in reverse to provide additional flexibility.

With the expanded facilities, Cargill can unload barges directly to seagoing vessels or to its warehouses for later export.

Before the expansion, Cargill used two pneumatic unloaders. Although the new Siwertell unloader is in almost continuous operation and handles 70% of the work, the existing unloaders were retained. Cargill said it is important to have both systems in place to guard against any unforeseen issues.

The redundancy also allows for operations to continue when parts need to be replaced. As part of its contract with Siwertell, Cargill purchased a large spare parts inventory, preferring to keep certain of the most critical parts in stock.

A Bühler Portalink installation in China.
Photo courtesy of Bühler.

Bühler installing portlink globally

Bühler has completed the installation of Portalink and Portaload equipment at ports across the globe. This series of equipment is designed for heavy duty, high capacity port operations and have a life expectancy of 40 years or more. Portalinks provide an automated mode with constant unloading capacity for multiple hours.

Recent projects include:

  • A Portalink 600 in Port Sudan that will increase the total installed capacity to 2,400 tph. The project also included conveyors and other equipment for a new grain silo. A 600-tph Portaload ship loader also was added to the port.
  • Two Portalink 1300s with a nominal capacity of 1,300 tph and the ability to handle Panamax II class vessels for a new grain terminal in China.
  • One Portalink 600 for Bangladesh
  • One Portalink 600, including conveyors and silo equipment for King Abdul Aziz Port in Saudi Arabia.

Vigan completes projects in Morocco, Saudi Arabia

Mass Céréales Al Maghreb in Casablanca, Morocco, recently installed a pneumatic unloading machine that was specifically well-suited for final hold clean up. The VIGAN model NIV has capacity of 600 tph and is on rails with a span of 16 meters. The chain conveyor is equipped with five pneumatic valves, allowing for either the loading of three lines of trucks, the loading of railcars or the feeding of the two quay conveyors to transfer grain to silos.

This project, which was VIGAN’s sixth installation in Morocco, has been in operation since January.

The NIV unloading machine is equipped with a 30-meter long boom that is designed for unloading of vessels of up to 70,000 deadweight tonnage (DWT) of wheat and corn. With two electrical motors of 250kW, 400V, 50Hz with frequency inverter, the unloader has two four-stage turbo blowers with direct transmission and coupling.

From 2014-16, VIGAN also installed several 600-tph ship unloaders in various ports in Saudi Arabia, including three in Jeddah, two in Jazan, two in Dammam and three in Yanbu.

Mounted on a gantry on tires or rail, each of the ship unloaders are equipped with two electrical motors of 250 kW and a 30-meter suction boom. They are designed for efficient discharge of wheat from vessels up to 80,000 DWT of various origins, including the E.U., North America, South America and Australia.