Environmental regulations aimed at controlling dust emissions, by-product of bulk handling operations; avoiding the development of costly and complex bulk operations infrastructure; and the need to manage without having to handle the product multiple times from its source to the loading port, has caused the rapid expansion of containerized bulk handling, explains Johnny Medranda, RAM Regional Sales Manager for LATAM.
Medranda gives details about this technology: "A rotable container is an open top container specifically designed for the product which will be handled. For example, for copper concentrate due to its density and weight, half height containers are optimal with an average capacity of 30 tons; they could be designed to carry more. The containers have special ice cube internal walls design so that the concentrate slides easily avoiding hag ups. Similarly, its external structure is designed to prevent the product from staying inside the container’s corner casting".
Another example - "the container can be designed to handle grains such as soybeans. In this case, they are 20 feet high cube containers due to the soya’s much lighter weight when compared with copper. They can usually carry up to 20 tons. Containers can be designed to carry more load if required.
The container, Medranda explains, depending on the product and the operation the container can include a lid with a special lock mechanism (auto-open lockable latch) that can be opened or closed automatically by the rotating spreader "RAM Revolver".
According to Medranda one of the advantages of this system it is that the container is not opened until it is rotated inside the ship's hold for the bulk loading. "The bulk product is loaded from the source in containers hermetically sealed with its respective lid and transported directly to the port, either for storage in the yards like any other container or directly taken to the vessel."
Thus, he says, "the bulk material is transported from the source to the ship's hold and not exposed to the environment or personnel, much less to the communities through which the product is hauled either by truck or train". In addition, to avoid any dust during the ship loading operation, "a misting system is installed around the ship's hold entrance. It is a set of hoses that spray water with pressure, producing a fine mist that prevents bulk particles to come out."
Pit to Ship alternative
Containerized Bulk Handling can eliminate large investment in warehouses either at the port or mid way to the port in transfer points: "In Puerto Angamos is already been done for several years. The copper concentrate is loaded from the mine into containers, which are discharged directly to the ship through the RAM Revolver or stacked in the yards of the port waiting for the exporting vessel to arrive, "he says. The advantage of this alternative is that there is no need to build warehouses to store the bulk material or ship loaders. The containers itself is the storage, transport and loading tool. Three in one.
Pit to Shed Alternative
The flexibility of using containers can also be seen in the port of Matarani in Peru, where the mineral in containers is first transported by conventional trucks from the mine for about 350 kilometers, which subsequently are transferred directly to a train to do its additional and final 350 kilometers journey to the port. At the port, the mineral is discharged from the containers through the RAM Revolver attached to two bridge cranes into a hopper equipped with encapsulated conveyors belts, which takes the product right into the main warehouse. When the ship comes, the mineral is loaded with conventional ship loaders already in place. The advantage in this bi-modal scenario is that it avoids handling the product multiple time in the way to the port. Basically in this case the system has been applied as a logistics solution to move copper concentrate from the mine to the port’s wharehouse.
On Dock Loading (Direct loading)
In the case of Puerto Rosario, the soya meal comes in barges from Bolivia to one of Terminal Puerto Rosario’s pier. The soya meal is discharged from the barges right into 20 ft high cube (2.9 meters high) containers on tracto trucks. Then containers are taken to another pier about 200 meters away where the exporting vessel is awaiting to be filled. With a mobile crane and ship cranes equipped with a RAM Revolver the soy meal is loaded into the vessels hold. In this case, the system has been used for quick and short cycles, either on dock to vessel or from yard to vessel.
As for the performance of this technology, Mr. Medranda does not hesitate to point out that "it is excellent." As example he states that "handling copper concentrate in 20-foot containers with a capacity of 28 tons and with a single mobile crane, it registers between 500 to 600 tons per hour."
He explains that “when two mobile cranes are used at the same time, as in the case of Chile, the productivity will reach up to 1,200 tons per hour" and adds that "using gantry cranes would produce greater productivities." In the case of soybeans, he notes "in a 20-foot high cube container with capacity of 20 tons and with a mobile crane will reach productivities of 450 tons per hour per crane. With two cranes would be close to 1,000 tons per hour” he estimates.
One important feature of the RAM Revolvers is that they can be adapted to work with any time of cranes, from mobile, ship to shore, bridge or ship cranes or reachstackers. In most cases all this equipment is already part of the port.
RAM Spreaders notes that the system has already been implemented in Puerto Angamos and Antofagasta Terminal International. In the case of Angamos, the system is been used for three different types of bulk products and soon may add another one. "This shows that this system not only improves productivity or solve environmental aspects, but also generates more traffic for the port and cargo volume that maybe, without this system, would be impossible to bring to the port," he says.
"Outside Chile we are in Peru, Argentina, and Mexico. In the rest of the world, the system is already in Australia, Africa and the middle east" says Medranda.
This expansion based on "environmental issues, the need to reduce product losses during transport and loading and to improve time to market in new project, have made this system a success. A mine no longer has to wait many years to design and build costly and complex dedicated bulk terminals. This system is ready to operate within 6 months after the decision has been made. The only requirement is the RAM Revolver (Rotating Spreaders) and the containers," He said.
By Mundo Maritimo
Diploma en Derecho del Mar y Marítimo 2017
Organiza Escuela de Derecho PUCV