John Bensalhia investigates the latest developments and innovations in the sidelifter sector.
Built to withstand different kinds of terrain and to handle challenging kinds of cargo (such as hazardous, fragile and valuable materials), the sidelifter system provides a versatile approach to supporting daily container movements.
The two major sidelifter manufacturers, Hammar of Sweden and Steel Bros of New Zealand, have different views on the approach to use for this equipment at terminals.
Samuel Gottfridsson, Marketing, Hammar, says that sidelifters are a niche product for internal port logistics. “It’s not common to see port companies themselves invest in a sidelifter. When they do, it’s usually for a small-sized port or to use the sidelifter outside the main port where the overall volume being transported in/out is lower.”
Gottfridsson adds that most sidelifters are bought by freight forwarders and logistics companies and how they are used can vary. “In some places, sidelifters are allowed to use their cranes to both pick up and leave containers at a port. At others, they are loaded with reachstackers/straddle carriers, etc, just like a regular container chassis. Other ports do not allow them inside the port at all,” he explains.
For Steelbro, it’s been a different story. According to Peter Dobbs, General Manager, Steelbro has experienced strong growth over the last two years. However, he explains that demand in the second quarter of 2020 has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Customers have been cautious about committing to capital expenditure in the uncertain economic environment. However, we are already seeing a rebound in demand in key markets such as NZ, Australia and Malaysia.”
PORT & TERMINAL SUCCESS
Dobbs adds that Steelbro sidelifters have been successful in the port/terminal environment. “There are significant benefits to shippers, when packing containers safely at ground level, as well as huge benefits for the container terminal operator who often needs to switch from one mode of transport to another economically,” he states, before explaining further. “A sidelifter is a purpose-built semi-trailer on which, a specially designed set of cranes are mounted, to lift and transport ISO shipping containers of various types, sizes and weights, up to 45 tonnes. Sidelifter cranes can also be mounted on a truck deck for handling 20’ containers.”
Dobbs adds that the equipment can be used in a port environment to support a number of different operations, with shipping containers rapidly transferred from one terminal to another, using a truck and sidelifter.
“The sidelifter allows for efficient interaction between haulage company and port operations. The sidelifter is an important tool in ensuring there is a fast vehicle turnaround time: avoiding queues and time waiting to be serviced by a straddle carrier or reach stacker.”
PRICE AND VERSATILITY
For internal port logistics, price and versatility are important benefits. Gottfridsson says that a sidelifter is considerably more economic than most dedicated port equipment in terms of first-time investment and maintenance costs.
“While it can’t match the loading/unloading speed of most dedicated lifting equipment (a full handling cycle for a sidelifter is about 2-4 minutes depending on model/extra equipment), it can do much of the same work: lifting containers from/to the ground, transferring containers from/to other container chassis or rail wagons, or stack containers two-high. Unlike most lifting equipment, it can also efficiently transport containers over longer distances and be used on public roads. These features in combination means that in a best case scenario, a single Sidelifter + truck can replace two dedicated lifting units and a container trailer + truck.”
By allowing the sidelifters to pick up and/or leave containers themselves, ports get a more flexible time schedule. “Unlike with a container chassis, there is no need to time their arrival with your own lifting equipment,” says Gottfridsson. “This way, you get potentially shorter queues into the port during peak hours. You will also completely remove the risk of damaging third party property as the port’s lifting equipment will not have to come near the sidelifter.”
GREATER EFFICIENCY, BETTER SAFETY
The development of the sidelifter has resulted in new products that can offer ports various benefits, including greater efficiency, faster lifting rates and improved safety levels. The most recent innovation released by Steelbro is the SB363 sidelifter with a 36-tonne lifting capacity. The design is focused on delivering a reduction in tare weight and fast deployment of stabilisers, while ensuring that safety in operation and quality of materials and components is maintained.
According to Steelbro, the SB363 is the company’s lightest model with a tare weight of just 9.6 tonnes: “This gives operators significant payload advantages, without sacrificing strength or durability.”
In developing the SB363, Steelbro introduced a number of other improvements, including better lift speeds. “A higher flow rate hydraulic system has meant there has been a 30 per cent increase in the speed it takes to deploy and stow stabilisers, saving valuable operator time,” says Dobbs.
He adds that the SB363 has fewer components than previous models and includes simplified electrical and hydraulic fault diagnostics. “Plus, for ease of use, the SB363 is more operator friendly with its upgraded proportional control giving smoother operation, a more responsive joystick and improved crane synchronisation.”
The SB363 also maintains key features that all Steelbro sidelifters provide, such as a superior outreach of 4.05m, which also facilitates easy handling of misaligned containers. Dobbs explains that this means there is flexibility to handle different container requirements, i.e. it has been optimised for 20’, 40’ and 2 x 20’ containers.
The SB363 is currently available with two chassis options: Steelbro’s rigid chassis and an extendable chassis. The SB363 Extendable Sidelifter features a hydraulically extendable chassis for loading and unloading of 45ft containers. The Steelbro SB362 Sidelifter has recently been introduced to Malaysia, having been adapted for Malaysian conditions and providing transport operators with an alternative sidelifter technology.
“Operators wishing to transport and deliver lighter loads, more economically, may find this new model becomes their first choice,” says Dobbs, before adding, “The SB362 has been successfully used in New Zealand and Australia for several years where the product has a strong presence in the commercial road transport market.”
Steelbro designers gave the customised SB362 unit a heavy-duty chassis to cater to the Malaysian environment and conditions. “The design uses similar running gear to the already popular Steelbro model (SB450) for seamless integration with other units in the fleet. The SB362 has double stacking capability.”
Dobbs explains that the SB362 and the SB450 are complementary products. “Operators who include both models in their fleet will benefit from similar running gear on the chassis for ease of maintenance and spare parts. In addition, both the SB362 and the SB450 utilise the same controller, cable and remote which means that no additional operator training is required.”
The latest model from Hammar is the Hammar 110, a lightweight sidelifter that transfers containers to other chassis and rail wagons. “What separates the Hammar 110 and similar models is the low tare weight and its unique “Sledgemode” which allows for faster ground-to-ground handling,” says Gottfridsson.
He further explains the importance of less weight. “Our new light-weight programme features a reduced tare weight of 0.5-1.5 tonnes on our most popular models (the Hammar 195, 160 and 180). This results in lower emissions from trucks, a better fuel economy, less wear and allows a higher payload to be transported on roads.”
DEDICATED WORKSHOP SUPPORT
Steelbro has expanded its presence in the New Zealand market by launching its own dedicated workshop that services and supports Steelbro sidelifters in Christchurch. “This complements the services provided by the distributor network,” says Dobbs.
He adds, “In the current market, Steelbro has seen an increased focus from customers on the care of existing fleets to ensure capital returns are maximised. Steelbro sidelifters are known for their reliable designs and longevity. It is not unusual for a Steelbro sidelifter to be going strong after 25 years.”
Steelbro has also created parts kits for servicing and maintaining older fleets. Examples of kits include a service kit that provides customers with the items needed to meet the regular sidelifter servicing requirements and an electrical kit (analogue) that provides customers with the necessary components to replace the electrical system on a sidelifter.
An area where Hammar is growing in general is the use of sidelifters for handling of non-containerised goods. “We believe this might be an area where sidelifters can find a place in more ports,” says Gottfridsson.
“For example, we have a specialised sidelifter dedicated to handling large cable drums. Cable drums have a considerably lower handling volume and much of the traditional port equipment can’t be used to handle them. Here, a sidelifter can not only be more flexible and cost-efficient but might also be more efficient time-wise.”
Looking ahead, Dobbs concludes, “Steelbro expect sidelifters to continue to play a key role in the transportation and delivery of containers to/ from and around the port.”
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