Rise of the Machines – Balancing Act

After years of being down in the doldrums the bulk industry seems to be climbing out of a black hole.With more investments made in cargo handling equipment, the floating crane market grabs a share of the action. Peter van Schie reports.

Balancing Act

Another type of design that is being applied to floating grab cranes or loading platforms is that of equilibrium or balance crane. One company that is successfully applying this knowledge is Belgium-based lndusign trading under the well-known E-Crane brand (see article in December issue, page 25). Balance cranes are rapidly replacing the world’s aging fleet of conventional dock cranes as they are more productive and are cheaper to run and maintain.The design is based on an ingenious parallelogram style boom [almost similar to that of the Lemniscate type crane] and provides a direct mechanical connection between the counterweight and the load.This unique system ensures near perfect balance throughout its full working range.
Another advantage of the balance crane over other floating crane concept is the fact that the counterweight moves not only up and down but also back and forward, resulting in a very small tipping moment.This means significantly higher stability: less barge movement, less friction between the floating terminal and the vessel, more precise and faster grab positioning, and greater comfort for the operator and the crew working on board of the floating station.As with any other floating crane, each E-Crane is built to customer specifications.Their latest order for a floating trans-loading station came from Midema (owned by Seaboard Corp), USA, for their operations in Matadi in the Democratic Republic of Congo.The station consists of a 1000 m² barge, equipped with a 1500B-Series E-Crane with an outreach of 39.51-17 and lift capacity of 13.5 tonnes.The “Mama Mobokoli” was inaugurated late February in Zeebrugge, Belgium and will be towed to its final destination, across the Atlantic Ocean to Matadi.”Mama Mobokoli” is Lingala (one of Congo’s official languages) and translate as “the mother that takes care of you” – the nourishing/feeding mother.
The name reflects its duties, as it will be used to unload ships up to handy-max size (capacity 25 to 30.000 tonnes) and feed the Midema (Minoterie de Matadi) flourmill.To unload the ships arriving at Midema, the Mama Mobokoli will be towed alongside the vessel that is to be discharged. Once secured, it uses its winches to move along the ship.This enables the E-Crane to unload all cargo holds quick and efficient. Matadi is the furthest inland harbour on the Congo River and, as in many African ports the users of this Congolese Port are confronted with major congestion problems.
The existing infrastructure is dated and neglected with only 1 of the 10 original quays still in operation resulting in berthing waiting periods of up to several weeks. This expensive problem urged Seaboard to look for a suitable solution and after carefully reviewing all options (such as investing in the existing infrastructure, building a new quay), a floating trans-loading station proved to be the quickest, and most flexible and cost-effective solution. Recently, E-Crane® was awarded a mega-contract for the CITIC (China) mining project in Australia.The contract included 3 floating trans-loading stations, each equipped with 2x 3000 Series E-Cranes capable of handling iron ore at Pilbara in northwest Australia. ClTlC Pacific Mining expects to export 27.6 million tonnes per year.


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