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Published: September 2017      

Time to replace STS crane spreaders?

Based on market data, Bromma believes that terminal operators may be hanging on to their spreaders for too long, whoever built them.

Based on available STS and yard crane data, it is clear that new crane orders and deliveries are down this year. This, in turn, means that the spreader replacement market becomes more important for spreader suppliers. Of course, there are still some pretty big orders around for spreaders associated with new projects.

As previously reported, for example, Bromma has an order for 91 YS45E yard crane spreaders, in association with the Port of Virginia’s huge order for ASCs from Konecranes (WorldCargo News, February 2017, p37). More recently, Bromma reported that it is supplying 36 YSX45Es for the 32 Hans Künz ASCs (i.e. four spare spreaders as back-ups) being supplied to APM Terminals at Tanger-Med II.

Bromma’s ‘new cranes’ list for 2017 to the end of July also includes 14 STS spreaders and 10 yard spreaders for QQCT in China, five STS45s and 11 YSX45Es for Safiport in Turkey, eight STS45s for SICT Shantou, and six STS45s for Yangshan Shanghai, the latter being a completely new customer for Bromma.

In addition, APMT has ordered two STS45s in association with two Liebherr cranes at Rotterdam MVII. Also at APMT MVII, the original eight Kalmar STS cranes were specified with Bromma tandems (twin 40/45ft Tandem E3), but, in the event, only three were delivered. APMT has now confirmed orders for another seven Tandem E3s, including two for the new ZPMC cranes.

Another interesting order has come from Jaxport, for three SSX53 53ft STS crane spreaders. This is in association with Crowley Maritime’s new con-ro service between the Florida port and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Bromma’s orders for replacement spreaders include 10 STS45s for MPET, Antwerp, six STS45s for APMT Elizabeth, NJ, and some STS45s for DP World, Southampton, while Felixstowe is currently believed to be tendering for replacement RTG spreaders.

Less than expected?

All the same, Lars Meurling, Bromma’s VP, marketing, questions whether the replacement STS crane spreader market is as high as it should be. He stresses that this is not a Bromma-centric observation, as the company has no reason to believe it is losing out on replacement spreader business.

Instead, the point is that STS cranes will last from 20-30 years, and, in that time, require two or three spreaders. Given that there was a huge spike in STS crane deliveries in 2006, the first set of spreaders must have reached the end of its “profit life”, but this is not yet being reflected in replacement market demand.

It is true that, when there are new projects, spare spreaders are sourced to avoid expensive crane downtimes if a spreader fails. Bromma says that normal industry practice is to source four spreaders for every three STS cranes, and, accordingly, it uses a 4:3 ratio for its forecasting. Spare spreaders might last for the lifetime of the crane, and so reduce replacement demand if they are lightly used. However, as most terminals rotate their spreaders so that PM work can be carried out, such a scenario is unlikely.


The accompanying graph illustrates the point that Meurling is making. The “economic life” is the amortisation life, which is normally quite short, as companies get tax write-downs. The crucial point is the crossover between the “profit life” and the “physical life”, when M&R and downtime costs start to exceed the revenue earned.

It’s not just M&R, but also the effects of accumulated wear. Bromma gives an example of one terminal with a very good maintenance record, and the spreaders looked to be in good condition, but the crane operators were complaining that they were “too slow”. The spreaders were about 12 years old, and the structure had become too flexible, so the operators were losing productivity.

The costs of spreader downtime are out of all proportion to the actual cost of a spreader (ca.1% of the crane price) – spreader failure leads to crane stoppage, which leads to ship overstay at berth, other ships held up, and loss of reputation. It may seem  strange, but Bromma’s experience is that many terminal operators do not have quantitative data on how M&R costs increase with age. They should be planning replacements in advance to mitigate the risks.

On other matters, there have been a number of changes at the top at Bromma within a short period, but Vikram Raman, VP sales and service, says that these are the result of particular circumstances, and do not reflect instability. The company is now headquartered in Singapore, but is investing heavily in R&D in Sweden, where around 20 engineers are employed, and it is recruiting a new R&D director.

There are also field engineers based in Singapore and at the Ipoh, Malaysia manufacturing plant, and a parts sales and supports specialist is being recruited for the Durham, NC office. All structural steel used in Ipoh is shipped from Sweden or North West Europe, including the UK.

Intelligent kit

On the ‘intelligent’ products side, Bromma originally introduced its Green Zone software suite in 2011 and Raman says that this fits “very well with where we are now”. Bromma Connect TOS, including VGM functionality, was introduced last year, and is both TOS-neutral and spreader makeneutral, so all spreaders will be connectable as of next year, so equipment can communicate, and, where required, data collection devices can be provided. The industry has to decide what it does with the information.

Around two years ago, Sweden-based SF Port EQ introduced a device called Log Unit to provide customers with detailed information and data on their spreaders’ operating cycle (WorldCargo News, March 2016, p38). Managing director Christian Nilsson says that Log Unit, which monitors through CAN bus, has proved popular, and all new orders for the company’s spreaders include it as an option.

One customer is carrying out field tests that, if successful, may lead it to retrofit Log Unit to its entire fleet of 70 spreaders. This is possible because Log Unit is compatible with other spreader brands, provided there is a PLC to communicate with. SF Port EQ now has a manufacturing partner in Portugal, and is no longer using Uralkran to fabricate its spreaders, although it still works with the Russian company for sales and support – recently, a Y40-E spreader was delivered to a Russian customer through Uralkran.

Meanwhile, three S45ET-H spreaders have been delivered to ATI, Manila, and there are firm orders for six 145ET-H spreaders that are planned for delivery shortly. In addition, some spreaders have been delivered to CCT Moerdijk through Dutch company Inno Dock. Together with Inno Dock, SF Port EQ has also developed and delivered overheight lifting frames (OHFs) compatible with any spreader.

TEC in Poland

One of Spain-based TEC Container’s specialities is OHFs. Last month, one customer, DCT Gdańsk SA, took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement with TEC, commending the quality of six fully electric OHFs delivered in April.

The BA-030E4 (40) fixed 40ft OHFs were designed to meet the Polish operator’s requirement for a fully universal OHF that could be used with any brand of spreader, without having to modify or adapt the spreader in any way, or fit any kind of interface.

SWL is 50t, and free height is 2,400mm. The frames are equipped with solar panels and gel batteries that allow them to work autonomously in intensive cycles in nearly all circumstances.

“We were able to meet all the technical requirements, and thus won the order,” said Javier Pérez, sales director at TEC Container. “The project took several months, and this allowed us to work with the customer to understand and define the technical and operational requirements. Our OHF design was essentially right for the customer, although it required minor modifications, some of which will be retained for future orders.”

Karol Moszyk, business process improvement controller at DCT Gdańsk, said: “We were looking for reliable and robust OH Frames, which will guarantee simplified operations with high availability and long working time in the harsh Polish weather conditions. With the TEC frames, we have achieved our goal.”

Ice buster

Germany-based MWB (ex-Sort + Store) has come up with a special telescopic frame to clear ice and snow from corner castings. Each post of the ICF (ice scraper frame) is equipped with a rotating wedge, with back-and-forth movements covering around 170-degrees, and working simultaneously with the spreader twistlocks, so no external power supply is needed.

Several ICFs have been supplied for the ASCs at CTA Hamburg. The spreaders engage slowly with the container, and the lowering force is sometimes insufficient to break the ice. MWB is currently in talks with Russian terminals. Managing director Fritz Merk explained that, sometimes, the ice is so thick in the Russian winter that crane operators bang the spreader up and down. Of course, this is not ideal, and, in any event, it cannot be done with a remote control crane.


In Spain, Inamer has reported growing take-up of its Flexi- Flipper system. As previously reported (WorldCargo News, December 2016, p2), the flipper is effectively a three-piece flipper with a flexible, ‘elastic’ middle element made from a patented material, designed to reduce flipper damage if spreaders are accidentally grounded or lowered inaccurately at speed onto containers with the flippers down.

The concept is similar to a flipper developed by Bromma several years ago, called Springsteel, although, as noted, the central element is a new material. Inamer claims that Flexi-Flipper is rigid enough to provide proper gather and holding torque in normal operations.

RAM Spreaders has reported growing success in Latin America, and claims to be the only container spreader supplier to have a complete sales and service management team locally based in the macro-region. The senior manager for the Americas is Eddie Mills, based in Lima, Peru, while Johnny Medranda, regional sales manager, and Hector Pozo, services support manager, are based in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Between them, DP World Callao and APM Terminals Callao have over 60 spreaders from RAM Spreaders for STS, MHC, RTG and shipboard crane applications. Still in Peru, at the Port of Matarani, RAM Spreaders has supplied mining company MMG with four RAM Revolvers attached to bridge cranes, to tip containers loaded with copper bulk concentrate shipped from MMG’s Las Bambas mine around 700 km away. RAM Spreaders claims that this bimodal bulk handling solution was the first of its kind in South America.

More recently, Mexico’s Terminal Internacional de Manzanillo (TIMSA), part of Hutchison Port Holdings, acquired two RAM Revolver spreaders for use with MHCs, in order to tip containerised mineral bulk consignments (WorldCargo News, May 2017, p11).

Johnny Medranda stated: “Customers in Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador and Chile continue to trust RAM Spreaders with their container lifting operations on STS cranes, RTGs and MHCs. They enjoy not only first-class innovation, robust and reliable spreaders, but also local service support every step of the way.”

Spreader SWL of 75t

In May 2017, WorldCargo News reported on the new BASF automated logistics system being developed at the chemical shipper’s giant plant in Ludwigshafen, using VDL AGVs and Hans Künz ASCs. This is the first time that shipping container-transporting AGVs will be installed in such a huge brownfield environment.

VDL is also supplying the spreaders with an SWL of 75t for the ASCs to handle the 45ft and 53ft tank containers that BASF is procuring as part of its new logistics system. The spreader design is based on VDL’s heavy-duty STS crane spreader. However, since VDL spreaders are designed to be as modular as possible, many of the parts are standard.

Explaining the spreaders, VDL Containersystemen’s product manager spreaders, Pieter Verdonschot, says that the spreader has stops at 20ft for 20ft and 26ft tank containers, while the new 45ft and 53ft units are handled at the 40ft stop. The spreaders are single lift.

The tare weight of the spreaders is 11t, which one would expect for a heavy-duty STS crane spreader designed for intensive use and with a long (2M cycles) fatigue life.

By comparison, a regular VDL 20ft-40ft yard crane spreader with 41t SWL weighs around 6.8t. This is a valid comparison, because the lifting and lowering speeds of the ASCs would be similar to those of a yard crane, or perhaps even lower. The allowed eccentricity was very important for VDL’s strength calculations, and the fatigue life is calculated on 1M cycles, rather than 2M. The extra spreader mass results from four reinforcement plates on top of the main beam, where the sliding beams are pushing up in the 40ft position. “For the rest, the construction of the STS crane spreader version was strong enough for this load with the reduced life cycle, and standard twistlocks are sufficient,” said Verdonschot.

Naturally, the spreaders conform to EU machinery and safety directives. The automation intelligence (cameras, sensors, etc) is all being handled by Hans Künz....

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This complete item is approximately 2000 words in length, and appeared in the September 2017 issue of WorldCargo News, on page 53.

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