Shiploading Systems That Meet Stringent Requirements
Quickborn, Germany, July 2016 – The Quickborn-based company SMB International has commissioned two complex shiploading systems In the Algerian port city of Oran. With the development of a wholly interconnected system, the company, which has international experience, has set new benchmarks in terms of the flexibility and automation of ship loaders.
The port of Marsa el Kebir has been hugely important to the second-largest city in Algeria for some time: Because of it, since colonial times, Oran has evolved into a significant industrial hub and trading centre for imports and exports. Numerous companies engaged in the chemical sector are located here and in the surrounding industrial areas; even the natural gas obtained in the Algerian Sahara finds its way to Oran, from where it is subsequently exported. Companies with global operations were commissioned to construct the port complex – among them, SMB International GmbH. The material handling experts were assigned the task of designing and realising two ship loaders for the transshipment of urea.
Because of its high nitrogen content of close to 46 per cent, urea is the most important nitrogen fertiliser. Large volumes of urea are produced in those countries, in particular, that have substantial natural gas reserves. This involves large-scale systems converting a mixture of natural gas, air and water in multiple process steps (hydrogen production, ammonia production and urea synthesis). The urea, initially occurring in solution, is converted into pellets so as to then be distributed in bags or even loose – for instance, in Australia, one of the most important markets for urea.
Seamless linkage to the quay
This was by no means the first major international project for the experienced engineers, but every assignment presents its own challenges, as Managing Director Andreas Heckel affirms. “We take into account the individual requirements for any new order, such as heavy rainfall and the strong winds that prevail at the port of Oran. It is precisely these conditions that make our work so exciting because we also learn continuously and develop new, bespoke solutions for our customers time and again based upon our reliable systems”, according to Heckel. He and his team have developed a plan for seamless linkage to the quay, including the assimilation of bulk material from the quayside belt. The company opted to use a reclaimer that takes the pellets from the silo warehouse to the conveyor and, from there, on to the SMB shiploader.
“While designing this system, our aim was for it to be an enduringly reliable one that transports urea in a fully automated manner from the quayside belt into the ship’s hold – swiftly, effectively and smoothly. Prior to this, we implemented entire systems for other customers, including reclaimers, conveyors and ship loaders. This involves performing all process steps – from planning, through manufacture and delivery, right through to on-site installation”, explains Heckel. The SMB reclaimer is ideal for all systems in which bulk material is to be loaded from a slag heap onto a conveyor belt. The bulk material is loosened using scraper chains and carted away by bucket conveyors in a fully automated process.
Thanks to a high degree of automation, loading can occur at any time of the day or night, and the goods deposited in the ship after being removed from the storage facility remain protected. The engineers decided in favour of a 170-metre-long system with a swivelling superstructure, which could be manoeuvred on the quay. This enables ships to be loaded at any quay location. When bulk material is loaded, it first reaches the tripper car via the conveyor belt system. The material then drops onto the portal belt, is transported to a hopper located at the centre of the boom rotation point, and is then deposited onto the boom belt and finally into the cascade chute. Here, a number of open cones are arranged obliquely one above the other so that the material “flows” uniformly into the ship’s hold. This prevents the material from being degraded. The chute’s outlet section has a 360 degree profile.
Integrated solution creates flexibility
While developing the system, great importance was attached to the issue of safety – yet the optimisation of performance and flexibility was not compromised. “Many classical ship loaders are limited in terms of their flexibility. With this system, we have shown that it is possible to transcend traditional boundaries and integrate the loading process in the logistical port concept”, clarifies Heckel. The boom can be raised and lowered hydraulically, its slewing gear allowing it to rotate through 180 degrees. When idle, it is slewed by 90 degrees in the upper position, so as to be parallel to the rails. In total, the loader achieves a height of 25 metres, and the boom with its loading head is some 30 metres long.
The system’s design is also distinct in that it checks dust emission. Filters intercept the dust at transfer points – an advantage that is particularly important when loading urea, which is hygroscopic, i.e. has a pronounced tendency to bind water. The loading system is controlled from two different points: from the control station in the driver’s cab and by manual remote control. Because of the swivelling superstructure, the flexible system permits optimal loading of the most diverse types of ships while maximising cost savings. “This SMB system permits ships up to a size of 10,000 to 60,000 DWT, a maximum length of 145 metres and a width of 35 metres to be loaded. The system handles up to 1,200 tonnes per hour – but performance can be far higher”, Heckel points out. The company meets the specific material requirements in terms of the transportation of bulk material by using high-grade components and setting store by the highest quality standards even during the manufacturing stage. This has resulted in high-performance conveyor solutions that are designed for smooth, long-term operation and that work with minimal energy requirements.