New System Promises Faster Handling for Empties
A team of UK-based ports consultants has announced the launch of a new system for lifting multiple empty boxes on and off of container ships.
The locking system, called BLOK-BEAM, unitizes three empties horizontally. Three more can be interconnected directly below, as is done in a two-container Vertical Tandem Lift (VTL). This system allows a standard single spreader ship-to-shore crane to pick up six empty boxes at a time.
Tandem and triple-spreader headblocks with multilift capacity are already in service at many international ports; they are designed to carry two / three loaded 40-foot containers abreast on each trip. BLOK-BEAM is not intended to increase the crane's productivity for loaded containers, as these multilift headblocks do, but the system would boost throughput for empties. And as empties make up about a quarter of the world's container trade, this could save billions annually by cutting turn times, BLOK-BEAM says.
“We estimate that if only one-third of empty moves of containers are handled by BLOK-BEAM, the industry would save over $2 billion per year – before even considering the vast expense of idle time, fuel savings, general efficiency, losses at sea and safety," says John Evans, managing director of BLOK-BEAM Ltd and the ports consultancy Container Group Technology.
In addition, engineering director Martin Clive-Smith says that as the interlinked blocks stay linked up on board, BLOK-BEAM would cut back on the onboard lashing workload by up to 50 percent.
The BLOK-BEAM system is designed to go with a dedicated triple-wide trailer, called the OX, which is used as a jig to assemble each block on the shore side. This means that the block can be assembled away from the quay, carried to the crane as a single unit, and then trucked away again as a single unit when it reaches its destination port.