Crucial role for loaders at Italian port
- 16 January 2010
- Company & Industry News
At the port of Livorno in north-west Italy, a fleet of compact loaders is being used by TCO (Terminal Calata Orlando) to play a crucial role every day in unloading bulk materials from ships in the port, in a demanding task
"The port of Livorno plays a key role in the handling of many types of bulk materials, spanning from 900,000 to 1,200,000 tons a year in total. With our current level of organisation and efficiency," says TCO president, Federico Barbera, who also presides on the National Association of Commercial Ports. We can unload a 15,000 ton ship in 24 hours."
When ships carrying bulk materials arrive at the port, most of the unloading of cargoes from the holds is carried out with large dockside cranes equipped with clamshell buckets. As the hold empties, there comes a point when the bucket on the crane cannot reach the corners of the hold and this leaves a certain level of remaining material in the hold.
This is where the fleet of nine Bobcat compact loaders come into play, utilising one of their most important aspects - their outstanding manoeuvrability in confined spaces. Differential steering provides for highly efficient manoeuvring and super fast cycle times, while hydrostatic drive enables precise control of the speed and direction of the loader, both forwards and backwards, in any situation.
They are lifted into the holds from the dockside, where they first form new mounds for the bucket to lift out and then are used to ensure that the holds are as clean as possible. Working inside ship holds is particularly demanding for compact loaders because the job must be completed as quickly as possible, and can take hours, in dusty and - in summer - hot conditions.
Federico continues: "Of all the materials we handle, clay is unquestionably the most important in terms of quantity and business. Our port provides major logistical support to Assopiastrelle, the Italian tile makers association. Livorno is also the main point of contact with Sardinia, the production area for clay, with a total volume of approximately 300,000 tons per year. We load the clay onto trucks at a rate of approximately 1000 tons a day and put the same amount on daily freight trains that come into the port.
We also work for Gruppo Laviosa, which trades in various products (including coal and bentonite - we handle nearly 300,000 tons a year of the latter). Fertilisers and silica sand are other important bulk products. The latter is used to make automotive windscreens and must be handled with great care: it must not touch the ground to ensure that it has the purity needed to ensure the top quality of the end product. All these materials arrive in bulk and are unloaded using large wheel-mounted cranes with clamshell buckets (capacities from 3.5 to 12 m3) to empty the hold as quickly as possible. However, the operation could not be completed without our Bobcat compact loader fleet that we have been using for years and purchased from the Saimar Dealership in Livorno."
Four straight shifts are often used at TCO to unload a ship because speed is of the essence for this work. The fleet of nine Bobcat compact loaders, comprises 963 skid-steer loaders as well as new S300 models with which TCO is gradually replacing the 963 machines.
"We chose Bobcat over 25 years ago and have never changed since simply because these compact loaders are the only ones which can stand up to the truly demanding working cycles over time," said Federico Barbera.
"We have tested other machines in the past but none of them really convinced us. The products from other manufacturers did not come up to scratch with regard to ruggedness, reliability and cab comfort, an aspect which is not of secondary importance for operators who are asked to work in a particularly harsh environment and need to be protected by a comfortable, air conditioned cab. Compared to other applications, such as those in the construction industry for example, our job is more difficult due to the intensity and the arduous environmental conditions. Our machines generally do about 5000 hours, all of which are genuinely "lived dangerously".
For example, when handling materials in the most inaccessible points of the hold, the bucket will unavoidably strike the ship ribs. The arms are not designed to withstand this type of continuous stress. The Bobcat compact loaders would need constant, costly repairs if they were not so rugged. Another unquestionable strength is the capacity of these compact loaders to work in harsh environmental conditions: all the materials we handle are dusty (and fertilisers are also extremely corrosive) and these can easily damage hydraulic circuits, joints and fittings. Obviously, we follow the service schedule specifications carefully, particularly with regards to filters, but we are sure that problems would still occur even with continuous inspections if the materials and the engineering of the Bobcat loaders were not as good as they are."
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