Catering for the coal boom

The global demand for coal, particularly in Asia, shows no signs of abating and is expected to continue at least for the next few years. To cope with this record demand there is a wave of port expansion projects, both at existing terminals and new ones, and along with this is a good demand for coal handling systems.

Not only are coal volumes being shipped at high levels, so too are the prices being paid. For example in January 2007 export prices for power station coal being paid at Newcastle, the Australian port which is the world’s largest coal export terminal, were above $50 a tonne. Congestion at Newcastle with over 50 ships waiting mid January, and reduces exports from China are underpinning the strength of coal prcies.

The coal sector has a good range of handling systems, be it ship loaders linkied to conveyors, portal and mobile grab cranes and rail wagon handling systems. The technology has improved through the years and continues to do so, often in upgrades to existing units or designs with the occasional launch of totally new systems.

Gottwald Port Technology has seen mobile harbour crane technology increase as a means of handling bulk cargoes not least coal. It sees its sales of 22 four-rope grab cranes sold last year, accounting for 26.8% of all such sales, as a change in a market that was previously dominated by purpose built equipment. Since pioneering the mobile harbour crane some 50 years ago, Gottwald has enhanced its performance consistently.

Flexibility is also possible in that bulk terminal operators can now use mobile harbour cranes, portal harbour cranes or floating cranes that are all based on the proven mobile harbour crane technology. The latest introduction from Gottwald was the Generation 5 designs launched last year which the company claims puts them on a par with special units used in handling bulk or container cargoes.

On this basis Gottwald is confident that its presence in bulk terminals will increase in the future especially with the ability of Generation 5 cranes  to cope with 200 tonne heavylifts or 63 tonnes in a grab version. Added to these capacities are the faster hoisting speeds, drive powers, moves per hour and diversity of cargoes that can be handled no matter what size of ship.

Coal is a key cargo for Gottwald in that out of the more than 1,000 cranes that it has sold, over 180 were four-rope grab t ypes, many of these for handling coal. The physical performance and design of the crane is one part of the equation, the other being that this new series of cranes offers important operating benefits.

These include a low initial capital outlay, reduced overheads for the quayside infrastructure and short delivery/assembly times when compared with purpose-built equipment. Additionally the mobile and floating cranes can also be relocated to where they are needed. Such flexibility also extends to the means of power as such cranes can have their own diesel-electric drives or be powered from shore mains offering further operational savings.

The Generation 5 cranes have been well received by the market and at the start of 2007 there were 30 such cranes of all three models either on order or already commissioned. While a production design, the cranes can be adapted to meet individual customer needs. ommenting on the crane’s success to date Gottwald’s sales director Giuseppe Di Lisa says that with the cranes: “Gottwald is well positioned to play a substantion role in current and future cargo handling in all types of terminals. The fact that the start of the new Generation 5 has been so successful encourages us to be very optimistic about the future.

In terms of Gottwald’s portal harbour cranes these provide an effective option where space is limited or on narrow or special quays. Being able to work with rails or conveyors,Gottwald sees these cranes as popular for replacing older rail-mounted machines.

The floating crane option is particular useful in terms of coal transhipment which is important in several coal ports. There are also flexible in that they can be used in mid-stream or as in Amsterdam used for transloading coal from ships into barges or shore directly as required. One of Gottwald’s most recent projects using such cranes is in Indonesia. In the Kalimatan region PT Puterj Borneo is using a Generation 5 crane with a 63 tonne grab in coastal waters where weather conditions can get quite severe.

Another option that Gottwald offers the use of floating cranes loaded on a barge so that they serve as a portal harbour crane. One such case of this dating from last June involved the Shipyard River terminal in harleston, South Carolina, where two Generation 5 HSK 3330 EG cranes can operate at a rate of 1,100 t/hr each. This is a flexible option in that the cranes can be used either mid-stream for transloading or alongside to supply a hopper and conveyor belt.

Among coal terminals using Gottwald fourr-rope  mobile harbour  cranes are the Belgian Antwerp Bulk Terminal, ABP’s Humber International Terminal at Immingham and the Ership terminal in the Spanish port of Huelva. As to portal harbour cranes ABP’s HIT facility has three different portal cranes in use at the newest part of the terminal opened in 2005.

In the larger bulk handling equipment area, the Chinese group, Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Company (ZPMC) is one of the larges providers. THrough its Bulk Materials Handling Equipment Division it provides the market with a range of products which are bespoke for eacht project base on the product range that ZPMC provides which includes ship unloaders, shiploaders and stacker-reclaimers.

Currently ZPM is workingon a project for the Chinese port of Jing Tang in the northern part of the country which includes the supply of two dumpers for ore and coal and five stackers-reclaimers of up to 4,500 t/hr. For a project at Gangavond port in India, ZPMC is supplying three shiploaders this year with a handling rate of 6,500 t/hr.

E-Crane is a manufacturer of cranes with bases in the US and Europe and has a strong presence in the coal handling market. Coal is vital in the US as it is used to generate over 50% of all electrical energy. Many inland plants make use of coal brought in by the river and canal networks in the US and much of the coal handling equipment is aged and in need of replacement. E-Crane is very active in this market and its product range offers a cost-effective unit which has been taken up by several terminal operators and utility companies. The E-Crane series of cranes has units which offer reaches to 50m (150ft) and up to 49 tonnes lifting capacity.

One contract which E-Crane is involved in currently and which typifies the type of business it serves is a utility company with sevreal plants in the central part of the US. To cater or its coal handling needs at these plants, the company has bought five E-Cranes with another three still to be delivered.

The modern E-Crane design comprises modular construction so that each unit can be built for each customer’s particular needs. They can be pedestal mounted, on rail, crawler or on a barge make the design very flexible to meet all requirements. In 2007 E-Crane will deliver 10 cranes of beteen 300 and 1,800 t/hr capacity.

With high demand, high volumes and high prices, the coal handling equipment manufacturers stand to have a busy time ahead.

Source: International Bulk Journal – Issue 1, 2007


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