Kloosterboer is about to confirm orders for an automated E-RTG reefer stack at its terminal in the Dutch port of Vlissingen, with Chiquita as the launch customer.
With Chiquita as the anchor customer, the new automated yard for reefer containers at the port of Vlissingen (Flushing) will facilitate a capacity increase to 300,000 TEU a year, against the 170,000 TEU handled in 2018. The growth will initially be generated from Chiquita’s switch from shipping conventional pallets to fully containerised shipments.
CHIQUITA TRADER was the first vessel in the new set-up to call at Vlissingen, on 18 February. The shipper is now concentrating all its banana traffic to Northern Europe via Kloosterboer in the Dutch port, where Kloosterboer already handles containers for CMA CGM and for inland barge services.
Finalising the various tenders is a matter of weeks only, Gerben Paauwe, general manager of Kloosterboer Vlissingen BV, told WorldCargo News. This will be necessary, given the lead-times required to get the RTG stack on stream in Q1 2020. “All detailed engineering is well in place. Also, the related container PTI and washing site has been completed,” he explained.
The private Dutch terminal, warehousing and distribution group, renowned for its many cold stores throughout Europe, is to order four automated and fully electric RTGs (E-RTGs). In addition, contracts will be concluded for the construction of the two stacking lanes and the reefer power racks, as well as a new TOS. In all cases, the shortlists include three vendors.
“We had already contracted Dutch firm Certus Port Automation for the new Gate Operating System featuring automated truck scanning. Earlier on, we commissioned Solid Port Solutions (SPS) from Dubai for the key consultancy. We had, however, already decided in favour of the RTG concept ourselves. Reach stackers would have curbed efficiency and competitiveness,” said Paauwe. SPS mainly employs Dutch specialists.
The planned new RTG section will feature two lanes, each serviced by two E-RTGs stacking 7+1/1-over-6. The tractor/ truck lane will be designed for AGVs as well, in case Kloosterboer decides to automate the CY completely.
The E-RTGs will operate fully automatically over the stacks, with the remote control operator taking over for all activities over the truck lane. The stack’s aggregate capacity will be 3,395 TEU including 1,020 slots for reefers.
Quayside handling is currently performed by four Liebherr mobile harbour cranes, but serious consideration is being given to deploying STS container gantry cranes in future, although Paauwe points out that this would require an extension of the Bijleveldhaven quayside, plus that of Kloosterboer’s adjacent terminal in the Westhof-haven basin.
The new quay, which would protrude more into the deeper Quarleshaven main basin, would allow for more water depth and accordingly could cater for bigger container ships. Together with the port authority, North Sea Port (NSP), Kloosterboer is exploring the possibilities and cost of this extension.
“We would also extend the automated E-RTG concept to the new terminal site, whereby the stacks would be fed directly by the STS cranes’ backreach, thus skipping the trailer-tug transfer,” said Paauwe.
Speaking at the first call of chiquita trader in February, Daan Schalck, CEO of NSP, said he was, in principle, sympathetic to the terminal expansion plan, but added that new quaysides could not be ready before 2022 at the earliest.
Chiquita is the main reason behind the RTG investment, as the banana shipper recently extended its contract with Kloosterboer Vlissingen for an undisclosed number of years. The company moved one of its two Central America-North Europe services from Antwerp to Vlissingen four years ago, and last year it transferred the other service from Bremerhaven to the Dutch port at the mouth of the Scheldt River.
This was connected to Chiquita’s decision to switch from shipping conventional pallets in reefer ships to full containerisation for its north European business. The Bremerhaven and Vlissingen services, each deploying four ships, have now merged into a single service to Vlissingen.
The service’s five ships have a 2,500 TEU capacity that includes 600 reefer slots. In the wake of Chiquita’s containerisation, Unifeeder and Samskip, too, are now calling at Vlissingen.
Whereas Unifeeder will do the feedering to Oslo, Helsingborg and Helsinki, Samskip will serve British destinations.
Paauwe declined to provide traffic figures, but local newspaper Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant has understood that the stevedore’s banana volume (also thanks to the business having moved from Bremerhaven) will go from about 400,000t in 2018 to about 720,000t this year.
Last year, plans to establish a greenfield shortsea container terminal in Vlissingen collapsed. Initiated by a business plan by the Rotterdam-based Kramer container group, the project was joined by Vlissingen-based stevedores Verbrugge and Kloosterboer. It is being suggested, that Kloosterboer did not want to jeopardise its own plans, with the Chiquita contract extension about to be inked.