• Thai port undergoing automation


    Electrification systems specialist Vahle Inc. has revealed details about its project with the largest container port in Thailand, Laem Chabang, which is operated by Hutchinson.

    The port has installed a 2+2 Vahle electrification system for 10 new rubber-tired gantry (RTG) cranes at the 6.5-million TEU (20-foot equivalent unit) capacity facility as part of its larger automation strategy.

    But this stage of the Thai port’s automation is a small part of a large and sustainable order for Vahle, as by the
    time the work is completed in 2020, the company will have electrified 17 large ship-to-shore cranes and 43 RTGs.

    For the latest stage of the project, Vahle has installed eight of the RTGs with a single telescopic arm and the remaining two with two arms.

    A control software developed by Vahle will enable the cranes to automatically use the system to couple and uncouple without the need for manual intervention.

    Vahle has also integrated components in the ‘e-house’ of the RTG, the result of a successful collaboration with crane manufacturer Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. (ZPMC).

    In a statement about the project, Vahle said: “Ships are charged harbor dues by the hour.”

    “For this reason, the quick and reliable transport of containers to and from the ships is a top priority of the Hong Kong-based harbor operator company Hutchinson,” it added.

    “Because the RTG cranes used for handling the containers usually travel along the same paths repeatedly, it is useful to install a conductor system and retrofit the cranes with electric drives,” Vahle said. “This is what is happening on the 76-hectare port facility at Laem Chabang in three stages.”

    For the power supply of the automation project, almost 2.5 kilometers of the 4-pole Vahle U35 conductor system was installed with an additional 2.5 km of SMGX data communication in a total of five double aisles.

    Vahle has ensured that environmental conditions, like dust, humidity or temperature, do not affect the systems.
    Wireless communication within the port is also not an issue when it comes to transmission.

    This fulfils the prerequisites for complete automation.

    According to Vahle, Laem Chabang will be the first port in the world with remote-controlled cranes.

    From an office several hundred meters away, an operator can use a joystick-style device to control up to three cranes simultaneously at a data transmission rate of up to 100 Mbit/s.

    The system features an emergency stop signal and cranes can be monitored at all times by using video signals.
    Joystick commands are only necessary for gripping the container.

    “Retrofitting with E-RTGs has a number of financial and environmental benefits,” Vahle said.

    “The cranes are low-maintenance and [reduce]fuel consumption, [and]CO2 emissions are almost zero,” it added.

    “The cranes, which traditionally run on diesel fuel, are also equipped with an electric motor, similar to a hybrid car. Ninety-five percent of the time, the cranes run on electricity only, which also reduces noise in the port,” Vahle said.

    “This is particularly important for ports that are close to residential areas, such as in Oslo, another port where Vahle has retrofitted the cranes with electric drives,” it added.


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