Digitalisation, bigger box ships and a growing awareness of commercial gains are driving the development of more efficient cargo-handling systems
Cargo- and load-handing operations are being transformed through digitalisation, more efficient handling solutions and port infrastructure, including cranes.
Bigger ships and the need for container vessel operators to be as efficient as possible in a tough trading environment have helped boost the development of cargo-handling systems.
MacGregor director of customer solutions Tommi Keskilohko emphasises the importance of looking at the cargo system holistically, rather than the individual elements of which it is composed: “So we need to look at a combination of different cargo system elements: hatch covers, lashing bridges and lashing systems.”
He continues: “What we have been trying to promote is that whenever a ship-owner buys a new ship, they should always think about the intended trade that the vessel will be deployed upon and use that trade as a basis for the definition of the cargo system, so that they get the best possible cargo system suitable for that trade, while being flexible enough to shift to other trades.”
World’s biggest box ship
Crucial to achieving this goal is the ability of the cargo system developer and container ship operator/owner to work together on the system to be used at an early stage. Mr Keskilohko singles out MSC Gülsün is a good example of this. MacGregor designed the cargo system for the world’s largest containership, which was delivered in July 2019 by South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries. It is 400 m long, 61.5 m wide and is the first in a series of 11 ultra-large containerships with a capacity of more than 23,000 TEU. Six of the vessels are being built by Samsung Heavy Industries, and the other five by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.
Mr Keskilohko says: “MSC Gülsün is a good example as to how we worked with [the owner] and understood [their] needs and made a cargo system that fitted with their needs.
“I think that it is a textbook example of how we should work together with owners, as collaboration started with MSC at early stage of the project. We made different studies with them and it is a [good] example about the importance of early involvement, good discussion and making the specification together so that it fulfils the operator’s/owner’s criteria.”
While the ship is the largest box ship in the world, it was not such a leap for MacGregor, as it has previously worked with ships as large of 20,000 TEU, so there was “not a big change” for 23,000 TEU.
Mr Keskilohko says: “From the technical point of view it was not that big a deal – it was more about processes and how we got there, working together and looking into different alternatives for technical solutions and finding a way to have nominal and actual carrying capacity as close as possible to each other.
“We cannot give exact figures, but the nominal capacity and what the vessel can actually carry are quite close to each other. It gives an opportunity for a liner to do good business and carry a different mix of cargo, as the ship is flexible and not just designed for 20 ft or 40 ft containers, but a mix of 20 ft and 40 ft, high cube and reefer containers and containers of different weight categories.”
The cargo system design, combined with a 24-container-wide ship design, takes MSC Gülsün’s total container capacity to 23,756 TEU, which is 1,500 TEU more than the largest containerships have previously carried.
Clearly, a consideration of the cargo mix is important when it comes to planning the cargo-carrying systems of container ships. Mr Keskilohko says: “Together with the shipowner, we take existing information on the trade that the ship will be operating and look at what cargo they will be carrying, whether it be reefer, TEU or FEU and so we get a cargo mix of what it is typically carrying on the trade.”
MacGregor then uses a tool to simulate the cargo system, using various models to identify the best solution.
Mr Keskilohko highlights how shipowners are paying much more attention to their cargo carrying solutions. “Owners have become more interested now, they don’t want something standard. One reason [for this] is that 10 years’ back ships were much smaller. But then ships got larger and larger and owners realised they needed to think differently about the performance of the vessels. It has been a combination of raising awareness among owners – and we have been active there – and partly coming from the financial pressure owners are facing. They need to find ways to be more efficient and using more efficient cargo systems is one way to do it.”
Cargo carrying systems are also helping to cut emissions: “We are able to load more cargo on board, which effects sustainability,” says Mr Keskilohko. “By increasing the capability of carrying more cargo with the same consumption of fuel, the emissions per transported tonne is less.”
And there is still a focus on retrofitting current container ships with MacGregor’s Cargo Boost solution, despite the focus on preparing for the 2020 low sulphur cap. Mr Keskilohko says: “Owners are quite busy with scrubber sand other 2020 preparations and that is taking a lot of their time and attention. But we are still doing a good amount of Cargo Boost retrofits. I think owners understand that there is a good business potential in upgrading existing cargo ships while the vessel is being docked anyway.”
New rules, more cargo
Elsewhere, Lloyd’s Register’s (LR) new container securing rules will allow box ship operators to carry more cargo.
Starting in 2017, this has been a major project for the class society, according to LR product owner for container securing Seb Brindley: “Container securing rules directly affect the capacity of the ship and hence the return on investment that can be achieved, so it is an important consideration, both when ordering a vessel and for ships in operation.”
In 2017, LR released a major update to its container securing requirements, providing an advanced solution capable of reliably calculating the loads experienced by containers and loose fittings on board vessels. This is essential for external lashing arrangements, implemented on almost all ULCS. Mr Brindley comments: “We acknowledge the significance and importance of vessel roll motion, particularly with regard to parametric rolling and synchronous rolling; one of the major causes of container loss.”
This year, LR launched new customised rules which can work with operators taking advantage of modern support systems, focusing on providing flexibility and simplicity without compromising safety. Operators can optimise carrying capacity for specific routes, offering better utilisation of their vessels as well as reducing the environmental impact per TEU.
The class society has developed an advanced non-linear solver that models twistlock separation and lashing bridge deformation. Mr Brindley explains: “The key thing we have introduced is a revised method of determining the loads within containers and the lashing rods. It is a matrix solution, including all the key aspects that influence the distribution of forces within the container corner posts and the lashing rods.”
Mr Brindley adds: “The non-linear behaviour of twistlocks significantly impacts the container stacks, especially for external lashing. When the ship rolls, the high side of the stack lifts and the twistlocks that tie the containers together do not engage until the twistlock locks in tension with the corner castings of the container. Until this happens there is no load transferred through the corner posts of the container, but the load in the lashing rods can increase significantly.”
He continues: “Compared with traditional linear solutions, modelling non-linear behaviour can make a big difference to the force distribution for many lashing arrangements; and with a better understanding of the force, distribution operators can carry more containers or load containers more flexibly without reducing the safety margin.”
This non-linear behaviour of container stacks has been recognised for many years, but until now, non-linear stack calculations have been slow and it has not been practical for operation teams to consider this behaviour when planning ship loading. LR’s solver is currently being used by operators of ULCS; both for planning and on board.
Having launched the rules in 2017, LR has been busy over the last two years talking with ship operators, lashing manufacturers and software developers.
Mr Brindley says: “Because of the complexity of the non-linear solution we now provide a software solver designed to integrate with third-party software. The major onboard software companies have integrated our solver into their software tools for use on board and for planning, as have several lashing manufacturers.”
An example of customer engagement over the new lashing rules is COSCON. The Chinese liner company has applied the new non-linear rules to three of its six new 21,000-TEU ships, delivered at the end of 2018.
Mr Brindley says: “We visited COSCON in Shanghai to discuss the integration of our new rules and the performance of their newly delivered vessels.
“We had a discussion with COSCON and they highlighted some operating difficulties they were facing on certain routes. This allowed us to work closely with them, developing a tailored solution using our advanced solver and expertise.”
COSCON will now use LR’s rules for its remaining three 21,000-TEU ships, which are not LR-classed. “This is significant for us and for them,” Mr Brindley says.
COSCON marine operating centre manager Capt Xia Shao Sheng told Marine Propulsion: “Initially, using the 2018 rules we felt the carrying capacity did not match our requirements and the calculation speeds were slow, making it hard to plan the vessel’s loading. We raised this with LR and the class society provided a solution implementing the latest 2019 rules and arranged for a new release of software to support our container planning.
“LR’s 2019 container stack calculations are based on an advanced and fully validated approach so we have a high degree of confidence in the outcome, especially for assessing our world-class ultra-large container ships. We would like to continue working closely with LR based on the flexibility the rules safely permit and the stacks we can load.”
Digitalising cargo handling
Like many other sectors, digitalisation is changing the face of cargo and load-handling operations and central to the creation of value is industry collaboration.
The Riviera Maritime Media/MacGregor: Separating fact from fiction webinar earlier this year took an in-depth look into where the ‘hype ends and value begins’ concerning digitalising cargo and load-handling operations. The webinar highlighted that it is now possible to prove the value of investing in digitalised cargo-handling operations and there is much more that can be achieved in this area. But all this is only possible by ship operators, equipment suppliers and vendors all working together.
MacGregor vice president, digital and new business transformation Denis Mol said: “It all starts with collaboration.” This is crucial as underpinning digital advancements within cargo-loading operations is the use of shared data. Relationships between solutions providers and shipping lines need to be based on trust, as they need to share information and data if cargo utilisation is to be improved.
Collaboration is also needed to cut through hype about digitalisation and its impact on cargo handling. Hapag-Lloyd senior director, fleet support center Jörn Springer explained the focus should not be so much on the technology, but rather on the problem the shipping line wants to solve and how it applies the technology to do this.
To achieve this, collaboration is needed not just within the cargo-handling sector, but across external industries, including data analysts and algorithm software providers.
Mr Springer cited a tangible example that highlights how collaboration has made a beneficial impact on cargo-handling operations: Hapag-Lloyd moved some chartered ships to different trade-lanes, where a different cargo mix was loaded. In a partnership including MacGregor, the carrier changed the lashing pattern to load more cargo and so gained additional revenue.
The webinar also explored the importance of creating new financial models to encourage investment, such as performance-related contracts. If these models are to be established and work properly, they need the foundation of a close partnership between both parties.
Hence, one of the key problems that must be overcome if the digitalisation of cargo handling is to meet its full potential is data ownership. Mr Springer explains that discussions around this topic sometimes prevent the usage of the data, although commercial and legal frameworks are being devised to overcome these obstacles.
Cranes crank up efficiency
Onboard cargo systems need to be backed up by efficient port infrastructure, including cranes, to achieve optimum loading and unloading efficiency.
Ultra-large cranes have had to be delivered to handle the world’s largest container vessels. An example are the cranes being used by DCT Gdansk port to handle the world’s largest box ship, MSC Gülsün.
Liebherr Container Cranes Ltd. Provided an ultra-large container crane to the DCT terminal. The new crane, which is identical to two previous cranes supplied earlier this year, has an outreach of 72 m, a back reach of 15 m and a lift height over rail of 50 m. The cranes are capable of handling vessels with 25 rows of containers across deck. The port now has eight Liebherr ship-to-shore cranes capable of handling ultra-large container vessels.
Explaining the impact of ultra-large box ships on cranes, Liebherr Container Cranes
marketing manager Trevor O’Donoghue says: “30 years ago, the largest Liebherr STS crane had an outreach of 37 m. Today that outreach has almost doubled to cater for the latest and future generations of ultra-large container vessels. Liebherr STS cranes with outreaches of 73 m are operational and designs with outreaches of 75 m are expected.”
He explains that over the years, a range of features have been designed and improved to maximise efficiency: “These include a unique boom/beam hinge point allowing for a smooth traverse of trolley and cabin across the whole length of the crane, resulting in reduced operator fatigue; a rigid and robust structure with mechanical anti-sway allowing for increased productivity; Liebherr high performance drive systems, designed and built by Liebherr specifically for container cranes; Extreme inching control; and simultaneous drive motion.”
Driver aids can boost productivity even further, says Mr O’Donoghue: “Driver-friendly cranes result in industry-leading handling rates and reduced costs per box moved, allowing our customers to benefit from lower costs and a fast turnaround of vessels.”
As digitalisation has grown within the box ship sector, it has had an impact on the container cranes industry. Mr O’Donoghue says: “Automation has been around in some form for many years and will continue to be a key driver of container crane development. Data gathering and analytics are key to optimised crane operations and maintenance schedules and are of course a key area of consideration now.”
Konecranes also highlights a focus on smart cranes. Its senior marketing manager business unit mobile harbour cranes Peter Klein says: “Smart crane features make crane operation more productive and safer. There are many smart crane features available dedicated to different applications, including container and bulk handling and project cargo as well.”
Smart crane features include load anti sway, semi-automatic point-to-point control, tandem lift assistant and web reporting.
Konecranes delivered the Mediterranean region’s largest ever mobile harbour crane (at the time) after Lorenzini & C. S.r.l. placed an order for a Konecranes Gottwald Model 8 crane in the Q3 2018. Since the start of this year the crane has handled containers in Livorno, Italy.
With this large Model 8 crane, Lorenzini can handle containers across 22 rows. The diesel-electric mobile harbour crane can also be hooked-up to the terminal’s grid for greater eco-efficiency.