Protecting port equipment

Credit: Hampel

In today’s fast-paced global economy, pressure is on producers, manufacturers, and businesses across every industry to optimise efficiency savings and reduce supply chain costs. For port and terminal operators, ensuring reliable, efficient, and cost-effective services to customers is therefore business-critical.

While it may not be as obvious as upgrading to the latest digitalised or automated processes, which can help to move cargoes faster and with greater transparency, investing in the right protective coatings system to protect vital cargo-handling equipment can also deliver significant cost and efficiency savings through reduced downtime. As the pillars of port operations, ship-to-shore (STS) automated straddle carriers (ASC) and rubber tyred gantry (RTG) cranes must be adequately fortified to withstand gruelling work requirements and harsh environmental conditions.

Many would be surprised to learn of the costs behind a major refurbishment of STS and RTG cranes. When you consider the processes required to execute such refurbishment, a single crane can generate repair costs within the region of USD200,000. Imagine what it would be for a 2 million teu terminal.

Much of the damage that leads to refurbishment results from premature coating failure from, for example, mechanical impacts leading to rust damage and material degradation. The cost of corrosion, a key contributor to the mechanical and structural damage of these cranes, can be reduced significantly with clearly defined coating specifications and is supported by active management of the coatings as part of a crane maintenance regime.

Adoption of new protective coatings solutions with better resistance to the environmental and frictional conditions endured by cranes is a particularly important point, which is unfortunately often overlooked. Especially because the main challenge in protecting port equipment is guarding against rust creep and corrosion from frequent impact or mechanical damages, utilising a protective coating that delivers improved mechanical strength and is highly resistant to cracks under any weather conditions, and which – believe it or not has the ability to self-heal microcracks – is exceptionally important. It is these types of coatings that should be considered by port and terminal operators interested in protecting assets over the long term, and significantly reducing lifetime maintenance costs.

In the traditional zinc epoxy coatings commonly used as a protective solution on cranes, only one-third of the zinc has an anti-corrosive effect.  Hempel’s Avantguard technology, by comparison, activates all the zinc in the primer coating, which significantly improves the coating’s anti-corrosive performance. The range is ideally suited for STS, ASC, and RTG cranes. The three-coat system consists of a zinc rich Hempadur Avantguard epoxy primer, a high-build epoxy intermediate, and a strong polyurethane topcoat.

The careful monitoring and maintenance planning is also critically important. Rust and corrosion often go unnoticed until the problem is severe, frequently arising on the structure of cranes and equipment in areas, which not easily accessible.

Doing everything possible to optimise control across the entire supply chain ensures that gains achieved by one segment of the maritime logistics chain are not negated by inefficiencies arising elsewhere in the process. It is these calculations that container lines are working out in their voyage planning and contract allocation.

In an operating environment increasingly defined by consolidation of container lines, being able to prove that every possible measure has been taken to enhance efficiencies translates into competitive gain.