Konecranes reveals “Future Fields” concept

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Konecranes challenges terminal operators to consider new ways of combining technology to achieve “10,000 moves” per day from a single berth.

At TOC Europe in Rotterdam this month Konecranes announced a new way to combine innovative quay, horizontal transport and yard storage and retrieval. “Future-Fields” includes an indented berth served by overhead portal cranes, AGVs for horizontal transport, and an Automated container warehouse system for landside storage and distribution to other modes.

The indented berth and portal crane system is the “COFASTRANS” system initially invented by Vladimir Nevsimal-Weidenhoffer before being further developed and commercialised by Konecranes. The concept has been discussed in detail in this article from 2018, and further in coverage from 2022.

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Presenting the crane component of Future Fields at TOC Europe Tero Vallas, who is Head of Business Development at Konecranes, emphasised that portal cranes are a well-known crane design that would enable four trolleys to operate from the girders of a single portal crane. Serving the vessel from both sides, each trolley would have a much shorter cycle time than a conventional STS crane, allowing lower operational speeds, lower electrical power and reducing wear on crane components.

Konecranes calculates that three portal cranes servicing a mega vessel (12 trolleys in total) could achieve a 35-45% reduction in vessel time at port while requiring 50-60% less steel than a berth with current STS cranes.

As mentioned the horizontal transport for Future Fields is provided by AGVs, which have been successfully deployed by Konecranes Gottwald for many years now, with more terminals in the pipeline, WorldCargo News understands.

On the landside, Future Fields takes the automated container warehouse Konecranes announced in January 2022. This was developed in partnership with Finland’s Pesmel, which has developed and supplied automated warehouse systems that store and retrieve large heavy items like steel coils and paper rolls.

Konecranes’ container warehouse sores containers in a racking system to achieve individual slot selectivity, so any container in a rack up to 14 high can be loaded and retrieved without having to move other containers. A container warehouse achieves this while at the same time reducing the land area required compared to a conventional container stacking yard. A stacking density of 3,500 to 4,000 TEU per hectare can be achieved, Konecranes says.

Presenting this part of Future Fields Gordon Rankine, a Director at Beckett Rankine, said a container warehouse can help terminals improve operational resilience while integrating yard, rail and trucking operations. With a high level of automation, the warehouse offers substantially lower OPEX than a conventional terminal, while at the same time improving safety.

The warehouse structure also offers the opportunity to incorporate solar panels on the roof to generate its own electricity. In fact a terminal with a container warehouse can become a net exporter of energy, Vallas said. Using a theoretical terminal in Germany, Konecranes calculates solar power on a container warehouse can generate 2.55 GWh of electricity. The total electricity demand from the container warehouse would be 537.65 MWh per year, 21% of the total, leaving the terminal with 2.01 GWh of electricity to export, while saving 1,125 kton of CO2 emissions annually in the process.

Recognising that brownfield ports all have different shapes, Future Fields can be offered with different configurations, including container warehouses on each side of the indented berth, or in an area behind multiple indented berths.

@Konecranes

On the crane side, the COFASTRANS crane concept is new for the container terminal industry, but Goliath/bridge cranes with multiple trolleys have been used for years in shipbuilding and other industries. One big advantage of bridge cranes is the legs can be set much further back from the quay wall. This puts the crane rail further back from the quay face and out of the possible overhang of the vessel structure (shown by the dotted line around the vessel in the left illustration). This would prevent a vessel strike toppling a crane.

A straw pole of industry executives at TOC Europe suggests the crane technology in COFASTRANS is not as much of a concern as the indented berth itself.

The major issue here is that past assumptions, including from terminal operating companies owned by shipping lines, about maximum vessel dimensions and stowage heights have proved to be incorrect. In 2017 a McKinsey study forecast that container shipping would see 50,000 TEU vessels by 2067. Whether or not this will ever happen it is difficult to “future proof” the indented berth aspect of Future Fields.

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