Cargo Handling and Equipment Supply in Mega-Ports



Richard Brough, Head of the International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA) International


As the name implies, “mega-ports” suggests modern terminals with multiple ship-to-shore (STS) cranes and a myriad of other pieces of handling and servicing equipment.

Mega-ports have followed on from the massive increase in trade that the world has seen over recent decades. This prompted ship owners and operators to look for ever increasing economies of scale – the advent of the new era of “mega container vessels” of course, and this has resulted in mega-challenges for ports, terminals and their suppliers.

Coupled with uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 Pandemic the industry has been overwhelmed to an extent as it was already facing a set of complex
challenges such as:
• Decarbonisation
• Helping vessels meet their emissions
• Just in Time Deliveries
• Productivity increases
• Re-skilling the workforce to deal with emerging and innovative technologies

Disruption in trade brought about by the pandemic has made investment decisions even more difficult. Port and terminal operators are sometimes faced with having to invest in new plant and equipment with a return on investment (ROI) that has a longer duration then the concessional rights to run the terminal (if it is not their own) that they have been awarded by the port authority or owners.

Those investment decisions are further complicated by the nature of today’s market and the solutions being offered. A new STS crane to service the new breed of mega-carrier, such as the MSC Gulsun class or HMM Algeciras class, is altogether a different prospect to what might have been specified and purchased just a decade ago.
To service a vessel with 24 TEU across and 12 TEU below and 12 TEU on deck requires a lift-height approaching approximately 60m, a boom of 80m and hoist and trolley speeds far in excess of anything required before.

This consequently increases the costs significantly and creates a major headache for the operator and the maintenance teams.

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