Cargo handling equipment stands as the backbone of port operations, enabling the seamless movement of goods and driving economic growth. Efficient cargo handling is essential in today’s global maritime industry, driving the need for advanced cargo handling equipment where precision meets productivity.

As technology continues to evolve, industry leaders such as Konecranes, MacGregor, and Liebherr Maritime Cranes, offer unique insights into the role of this equipment in shaping the maritime landscape. In this issue’s edition story, Robban Assafina is exploring the innovative solutions shaping the perspective of port cargo handling equipment.

Enhancing Efficiency and Productivity

Cargo handling equipment plays an important role in port operations and the economy, as it has facilitated and developed the handling and port operations. Speaking of the transformative impact of container handling trucks like reach stackers and empty container handlers, Konecranes states that these innovations have revolutionized productivity in ports worldwide, facilitating the rapid handling of large volumes of containers. As a global market leader, Konecranes Lift Trucks has played a pivotal role in driving this evolution. On the same level, MacGregor's focus on designing and manufacturing cargo handling and securing systems on ships aligns with their commitment to efficiency in maritime logistics. Arto Toivonen, Sales Manager Lashings and Cargo Boost, Cargo Stowage Solutions at MacGregor, stresses the importance of efficiency, underscoring the need for seamless cargo handling solutions: “It is important that the cargo handling equipment is efficient on both sides, in the terminal and on board of the ship. Cargo handling solution on board of the ships have to be as efficient as on the terminal side, otherwise ships will be bottleneck in port operations.”

Liebherr Maritime Cranes echoes these sentiments, emphasizing the efficiency, versatility, safety features of modern cargo handling equipment, automation and remote control, and environmental considerations. Liebherr's equipment, including container cranes and mobile harbor cranes, enhances efficiency by allowing for faster loading and unloading of containers, bulk goods, and general cargo.

The company explains: “This efficiency translates to shorter turnaround times for vessels, reduced congestion, and increased throughput. As for safety, our equipment incorporates advanced technologies such as anti-collision systems, load monitoring, and stability control to protect both personnel and cargo during operations. Moving to remote-controlled container cranes, they allow operators to manage multiple machines simultaneously, improving overall productivity and allowing for predictability and increased visibility and planning when it comes to port operations. Last but not least, the eco-friendly designs, reduced noise levels, and energy-efficient components contribute to sustainable port operations. As environmental awareness grows, cargo handling equipment must align with green initiatives.”

Evolution in Response to Industry Trends

This equipment has evolved along with the shipping and maritime industry’s developments, and has close alignment with shifts in this industry. According to Konecranes, the customization to meet the diverse needs of port terminals is highly significant. That’s why they offer a wide range of truck models for container handling, catering to every requirement: “Each port terminal and each operating company is different and has its own unique requirements. Konecranes has been working very closely with the port operators to cater for the different needs; for instance, today Konecranes Lift Trucks offers more than 80 different truck models for container handling.”

In an alternative perspective, Liebherr Maritime Cranes outlines key developments such as containerization, increased capacities, the adoption of hybrid and electric solutions, and data-driven maintenance.

“The shift from break-bulk cargo to standardized containers drove the need for specialized container cranes. Liebherr is among the pioneers of the development of container cranes, helping revolutionize port operations worldwide. And while modern cranes handle larger vessels and heavier loads, our mobile harbour cranes (MHCs) and STS cranes boast impressive lifting capacities, enabling efficient handling of mega-container ships”, explains Liebherr Maritime Cranes.The company’s commitment to reducing emissions and operational costs is also highly notable, through their electric and hybrid rubber-tired gantry (RTG) cranes and hybrid as well as all-electric MHCs, like the LPS 420 E. Moreover, their implementation of predictive maintenance utilizing data analytics ensures peak equipment performance, with real-time monitoring capabilities to swiftly identify and address potential issues, effectively minimizing downtime and optimizing operational efficiency.

Contributions to Port Management Software

Moving to the digital corner, there is various port management software developed to meet the diverse needs of port authorities and terminal operators. MacGregor, among other companies, has developed container cargo software for ships’ on board use, and the company is also using the same MacGregor software in designing cargo systems. Toivonen points out that this is giving a good basis for port management software automation to work together with port automation and systems.

The compatibility on system level is not always optimal though, because of so many various software on both sides (terminals and ships).

From this perspective, Toivonen underscores the Middle East's readiness for efficient technologies, where it has been very focused on efficient technologies on ships. “For example, United Arab Shipping Company UASC (today part of Hapag Lloyd) built series of 15000TEU and 19000TEU ships about ten years ago, which are still today among the most efficient container ships in the world.”

According to Konecranes, equipment control and optimization in automated terminals equipment control and related optimization is crucial for AGV (Automated guided Vehicles) fleets, as well as for ARMG (Automated Rail Mounted Gantry) and ARTG (Automated Rubber Tyred Gantry) cranes. The company explains: “In remote operation, it is also possible to control and manage the priorities of the cranes in terms of which one gets connected to a desk first.

Also, there are advanced analytics capabilities to identify equipment that is not performing at the optimal level and to generally find improvements in the processes. In more automated terminals, it also becomes even more crucial to have a full overview of the operations and to be able to react to any issues immediately and to be proactive where possible.”

Konecranes Lift Trucks continuously registers operational data that support maximum safety and productivity, enhancing operational efficiency and sustainability. The data is made available in the form of smart phone apps or on desktop applications.

The company speaks of these solutions in the Middle East region: “Some Middle East port operators are at the forefront of implementing these tools. Developments toward enhanced driver assistance and autonomy are ongoing. Always with a clear focus on safety and productivity. Since terminals differ significantly in their operations, technology usage, and services, we have observed that many terminals in the region are transitioning from a reactive to a proactive maintenance approach and are seeking the expertise of OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers).”

Liebherr Maritime Cranes actively contributes to port management software development as well. Emphasizing their development of software specifically related to their own cranes and their operation within the port environment, they say that despite the benefits, challenges persist, as integration with existing systems, cybersecurity, and change management require careful planning.

Emission Reduction Initiatives

In this area, all three companies are committed to reducing emissions in container terminals, highlighting the development of technologies to reduce carbon emissions.  

Konecranes, a forerunner in developing different technologies to reduce CO2 – tailpipe emissions, introduced solutions like Power Drive to reduce tailpipe carbon emissions by 15 to 25% in 2016; and in 2018, the company launched the Ecolifting concept, which includes Konecranes Flow Drive and utilizes HVT technology, to further reduce carbon emissions from equipment. Now, the focus is on all-electric battery powered drive lines. Of course, battery electric vehicles only contribute to tailpipe emission reductions when the electric power used to charge the batteries is generated in a non-fossil fashion.

The company explains: “It is important to consider the entire system. If completely sustainable electricity is not available, the terminal operator might make a more significant impact by investing in more efficient diesel engines, like the Flow Drive from Konecranes, which reduces fuel consumption by up to 30% compared to a regular diesel engine. Alternatively, using HVO100 might be considered as a fossil-free fuel option.”

In this regard, Liebherr Maritime Cranes speaks of the advancements in cargo handling equipment that contribute to emission reduction: "We continually develop our drive systems in the search for greater efficiencies and reduced energy consumption. We custom-design our own drives to allow maximum optimization.

Electrification, such as electric and hybrid cranes, minimizes air pollution and noise. Our electric RTGs (Rubber Tyred Gantry Cranes), portal cranes, and MHCs, for instance, reduce emissions significantly compared to diesel-powered alternatives. Additionally, our focus on smart energy management, including energy recovery systems, hybrid power systems, and optimized power distribution, enhances efficiency while reducing the carbon footprint."

Reinforcing this perspective, MacGregor underscores the importance of efficient cargo system design onboard ships, which translates to emission reductions in terminals: "Development in cargo system design onboard the ships plays a pivotal role in emission reduction in container terminals, especially as ship sizes have grown drastically," highlights Toivonen. "We have introduced fully automatic twistlocks and integrated lifting travels directly into the design phase. Consideration for cargo hatch cover arrangements ensures seamless operation of both deck and hold cargo.

Furthermore, various collision prevention measures have been implemented. When loading and unloading onboard the ship is efficient and environmentally friendly, it seamlessly translates to operations at the terminal – working hand in hand towards sustainability."

Challenges and Considerations

The industry experts share different views of the challenges in adopting new technologies. The challenges primarily revolve around the transition from established operational methods to those leveraging data-driven operations, states Konecranes, "Developing software-related services demands high-quality data and skilled personnel, especially when integrating AI/ML technologies. Additional hurdles include software implementation within ports, necessary training, and cybersecurity concerns."

Liebherr Maritime Cranes notes that while software streamlines operations, hurdles include resistance to change among employees, underlining the need for proper training and communication. “Additionally, safeguarding sensitive data remains crucial, necessitating robust cybersecurity measures. Moreover, integrating software across different departments and legacy systems entails careful planning to navigate complexity effectively.”

In the same aspect, MacGregor identifies software integration between terminals and ships as a key challenge that requires ongoing attention. They stress the need for collaboration between industry stakeholders to ensure seamless communication and interoperability between systems.

Factors for Good Lifecycle Management

Inquiring about the elements conducive to effective lifecycle management, Konecranes lists several key factors, this includes tracking operational data through advanced digital solutions, analyzing this data to inform decisions regarding service-related issues and operational costs, and adhering to recommended maintenance schedules diligently. Liebherr Maritime Cranes on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of good design, regular maintenance, upgrades, retrofits, and sustainability initiatives throughout the equipment lifecycle.

In this aspect, comprehensive planning and strategy development for cargo systems before shipbuilding contracts are signed comes to MacGregor’s mind at first. Their focus on lifecycle management ensures that equipment remains competitive and sustainable throughout its lifespan.

In conclusion, advancements in port handling equipment are driving efficiency, productivity, and sustainability in maritime operations. Collaboration between industry leaders, port operators, and shipping companies is crucial to overcoming challenges and ensuring the continued evolution of cargo handling technology.

Robban Assafina, Issue 91, May/ June 2024, Edition Story, pg. 71


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Issue 91 of Robban Assafina

(May/ June 2024)


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