Choosing the right ship loader for handling bulk materials: which one is right for your facility?



Christopher Duffy, BRUKS Rockwood Inc., Alpharetta, GA, USA


As demand increases throughout the globe for a variety of bulk materials, from wood pellets to petroleum coke, the infrastructure necessary for exporting these goods with the most efficiency becomes essential. As with most major projects, when approaching these challenges it becomes apparent that what might seem to be the perfect solution in theory may not be practical due to a number of factors, ranging anywhere from site conditions to capital considerations. Fortunately there are a variety of solutions to satisfy most, particularly in the final step prior to sailing: loading the vessel.

Each option offers its own benefits, but is it suitable for the existing conditions, and at what cost?

Travelling ship loader
A travelling ship loader is mounted on rails and equipped with a tripper conveyor to elevate the material to the loader boom. The tripper is fed by a dock conveyor, which extends the full length of the ship and is positioned parallel to the parked vessel. After a single hold of the ship is filled, the loader is moved to the next operating zone travelling at a rate of approximately 50 feet per minute. Clearance between the boom and the vessel is achieved by implementing either a luffing option (typically by winch) or boom shuttle feature, to clear the fender line while the ship loader is travelling along the dock. With either a shuttle boom or luffing option (properly sized to convey at an incline), material can be distributed inside the hold quite easily along the operating axes, with the use of a travelling loader.

A travelling ship loader is the most efficient machine to operate for handling bulk materials compared to other design concepts. The manpower required to manage this arrangement is limited due to the static position of the ship throughout the loading process. This design allows the boom to be positioned over each hold of the ship, managed by a single operator with remote control, and without the need to reposition the vessel. Setup time between loading holds of the ship is typically reduced, therefore maximizing throughput of material to the loader and minimizing the idle time of all interlocked auxiliary equipment and manpower operating upstream. Quicker vessel turnaround also reduces the associated demurrage fees.

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