The automated block storage facilities are an important part of the capacity expansion at HHLA Container Terminal Burchardkai (CTB). They allow the containers to be stacked extremely compactly and the limited amount of space to be utilised optimally. Although CTB still has conventional yards where the containers are moved by long-legged straddle carriers, the use of block storage facilities is expanding. When final testing is complete, their number at CTB will increase from eight to twelve.
Thanks to the four new storage blocks, it is now possible to store 8,200 standard containers (TEU) on an area which used to fit just under 4,000 TEU. “As a result of this enormous increase, we are even better prepared for the new ultra large container vessels (ULCV),” says HHLA Executive Board member Jens Hansen. “Our terminals have to provide highly efficient processes when it comes to loading and discharging these large ships, which can transport 20,000 TEU in total. Each time one of them calls at the port, we will have to handle and temporarily store between 11,000 and 15,000 TEU.”
Storage capacity can be doubled by using portal cranes, which replace straddle carriers in the block storage facilities. These cranes can stack five containers on top of each other instead of the usual three in the conventional storage yard. In addition, lanes are not needed in the block storage facilities, which cover an area of around 375 metres by 42 metres. Three portal cranes operate in each facility, with a larger one able to pass over two smaller ones. The interaction between the three cranes is so complex and unique that special software has been programmed for CTB to control the processes.
Apart from saving space, block storage facilities offer further advantages. They can operate continuously and as soon as the cranes become idle, individual containers are moved to an optimised position, as calculated by an IT system. This way there is less time needed to collect them later on. Because the facility is fully automated, the risk of accidents is also lower.
Manuel Mrochem, who is responsible for the electronic equipment in the hoists at HHLA, points out further advantages of the facility: “We have been able to cut energy and maintenance expenses at the new storage blocks.” He enthusiastically describes the features of the cranes. “The patented gear unit now operates more precisely and flexibly with little wear and tear. The cables which are used to lift the containers are no longer rotated, which significantly increases their lifespan.”
However, Mrochem’s favourite novelty is the innovative, environmentally friendly electric spreader. Weighing several tonnes, it grips the containers at their four top corners so that they can be moved safely. Where power used to be transferred hydraulically, the spreader now has nine electric engines, with a further four situated directly above to enable precise positioning.
“These new, decentralised drive systems operate much more economically. We save energy that used to be required for hydraulic power transfer and continuous no-load operation in order to maintain pressure,” Mrochem explains the advantages. In addition, hydraulic oil is no longer needed and the tubes do not have to be continuously checked and replaced.