Heavylift / Breakbulk
Added mobility on the quays
Government measures to contain Covid-19 have not prevented many major projects from being completed. In April Birsterminal, one of the hubs on the Rhine where the river’s inland barge navigability ends, opened a new heavylift platform recently. Mobile cranes enable inland barges to contend as alternatives to classic road transport for these types of loads, Martin Ticks and Roger Löffler told the ITJ on site.
Many invitations to tender for the transport of oversized or heavy consignments don’t have inland barges on their radar, even though the latter are also eminently suited to handling project cargo. There’s a broad range of opportunities available – if the right equipment is in place.
The Birsterminal, one of the facilities in the ports on the river Rhine in Basel, is now implementing a new concept. Its new handling platform, the plans for which were submitted to the authorities for approval in October 2019, has been operational since the end of April. As a marginal embankment has been removed the distance between the railtracks and the water can now be bridged by a new 60 m long and 11.75 m wide platform. This equipment has been designed to manage the entire 705 m2 area covered by the crane’s outreach. An additional plus point on the quay is that mobile material-handling vehicles as well as cranes can be deployed, thus significantly further increasing the overall flexibility and speed of handling.
Changing market requirements
“We initiated this project in reaction to changes in market demand,” Birsterminal CEO Martin Ticks says of the motivation for the new equipment. “Our customers not only require comprehensive services from us, they also bank ever more on inland barges for heavy consignments, on account of the increasingly complicated authorisation processes to transport large consignments by road.” The new concept has opened up a multitude of technical opportunities for the handling of project cargo. CCO Roger Löffler explains that the approach “allows us to tailor the handling equipment to the consignment. Our increased lifting capacities enable us to make the best of our potential for project logistics operations in the terminal.” On top of this, operations and shunting activities for heavy shipments now run independently of other services in the Birsterminal.
Handling huge hunks
Government measures to contain the outbreak of Covid-19 have not harmed the utilisation rate of the new handling platform since the end of April, as witnessed by the recent handling of an 82 t rotor blade. The biggest piece ever to transit through Birsfelden, a 236 t compressor with a traverse, was transported from Basel to Antwerp on the river Rhine on the last day of July, and onwards from there to Shanghai on a deepsea maritime vessel.
The compressor’s little brother, which weighed in at approximately 172 t, had already passed through the terminal at the end of May. Löffler tells the ITJ that his firm “used mobile cranes with lifting capacities of 500 t in tandem operations and a crawler crane with a 400 t lifting capacity for these two direct shipments.”
Who has such powerful units in its fleet – and brings them to the quay for action? “We collaborate with various partners, including Toggenburger and Welti-Furrer,” Löffler elaborates. “The cranes and their counterweights are brought to the handling platform in several shipments and assembled there.” Good planning and preparations mean the throughput then just takes a few hours.
Is the platform also suited to handling other types of loads? “Very much so,” says Ticks. “Together with the mobile cranes we can load 500 t of bulk cargo an hour, for example. These new options enable us to handle five times the volume of our usual operations.”