Gantry crane maintenance: Proactive or reactive?



Aguedo E. (Ed) Bello, PE, CEO, Port of Miami Crane Management, Inc., Port of Miami, Miami, Florida, USA


Crane design

Currently, the trend is to design and manufacture state-of-theart cranes that can operate at ultra-high speeds in loading and unloading ships. The owner/operator can claim they have the newest, biggest, fastest and most advance crane in the world but to actually use the crane to its fullest potential; remains to be seen. Having a state-of-art crane, does not necessarily relate to efficiency in crane operation or maintenance. Here the rule of thumb is; keep it simple. The simpler things are the least problems one will encounter and the easier it is to maintain. This does not mean to ignore technology but to simply analyse and consider your needs with the results of using the components that your consultant is including in your new crane specifications.

For example, a popular electrical component is the anti-sway system. This automated control system effectively regulates the sway of the spreader and container while loading and unloading a ship. However, before deciding on its use, consideration should be given to the benefit over the popularity of this technology since it is an additional electrical component that maintenance personnel must maintain and troubleshoot when it breaks down while the crane is working a ship; this means additional downtime for the operation. It is simpler to implement its usage in a new terminal where the crane operators will operate cranes that all have the anti-sway system and not in a terminal where there is a combination of cranes with and without the anti-sway systems. For example, when a crane operator one day uses a crane without anti-sway and the next day he operates a crane with anti-sway system; it is very difficult for the operator to become accustomed and proficient with the different cranes. This inevitably results in reduced production. Typically, the operator with the most control of the crane will react quicker and be more productive than that which is dependent on the crane system to compensate for sway. And even though he is depending on the anti-sway system, the operator still has to land the spreader on top of the container or chassis while the crane system is controlling the swaying movement at the same time. This leads to conflicting control motions with one trying to become the dominant factor.

Case example; witnessing a crane operator working a 40 metre (131.2 ft) under spreader high crane, without using the spreader flippers (in the up position) to seamlessly land the spreader on-top of a container(s) continuously without missing the twistlock pockets. This proved that there are efficient operators that do not require antisway system. However, the question then becomes, are there such crane operators and/or can we train operators to be as efficient? The primary design question which one has to ask regarding any of the additional components is: Do we really need it? We need to analyse each system, each component and formulate alogical response to ones needs:

• Is it going to make the operation more productive?

• Can it be easily maintained?

• Can it be repaired quickly if it breaks down?

• Can it be purchased easily, is it readily available?

• If it breaks down and it can not be repaired, will it stop crane operation or can the crane work with out it?

• Do we have to re-train all the maintenance personnel to service it?

• Are maintenance personnel trainable to the level required?

• What is the cost of repair or replacement?

Ask yourselves these questions and any other that affects your operation and base your design decisions on what is more efficient for you and your customer’s operation. Remember, what works for one terminal or port usually does not work for another.


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