With road congestion increasingly a feature of the transport network of many countries, there is growing interest in the use of intermodal terminals to transfer goods from road to rail or onto canals. Central to this is the provision of container handling systems, for example, one supplied last year by Kranservice Rheinberg (KSR), a subsidiary of Demag Cranes & Components, to an industrial park in Germany.

The container terminal at the 6.5km2 Chemiepark near Leipzig is operated by Umschlag Terminal Marl GmbH & Co. KG (UTM). Among the services offered is intermodal traffic handling between road and rail systems. The crane at the terminal is mainly used for handling tank containers which are filled or emptied at companies in Chemiepark. UTM also provides load filling services and has an area beneath the 42.4m span crane for storing container boxes, barrels or chemical tanks. Some 25 trips are made to fill the containers and about 30 are handled every day. Storage capacity is designed to accommodate growth and the depot is not expected to reach its limits in the next few years.

Nucleus of the terminal is the high performance crane designed for semi-automatic handling. It entered service in January 2001. In addition to intermodal traffic, the multi-function crane is also used for storing and retrieving containers. It has a telescopic spreader with a mechanism for handling 20ft to 45ft containers. The spreader’s pivoting gripper arms can handle swap bodies, road semi-trailers and UTM also uses a heavy duty spreader for handling unit loads.

For accurate load positioning stepless electronic drives are used and there is a load sway damping system with a pyramid shaped rope stabiliser arrangement with eight hoist ropes.

Lifting capacity is 41t on the spreader and nearly 54t on the ropes. Maximum lifting speed is 15m/min fully loaded and 30m/min partially loaded. Long travel speed on the 230m runway is 100m/min and cross travel is 120m/min. All speeds are infinitely variable via frequency inverters. The rotating crab turns at approximately two revolutions a minute and trucks and rail cars can be loaded in both directions.

The higher level control system communicates with the crane operator via fibre optic cables and shows the position of the truck delivering containers on a lane below the crane and a deposit position. This data refers to a coordinate system stored in both the higher level control system and the crane controls. The operator needs only to enter the coordinates into the system via a display in the cab. For safety he has an overview of the handling sequence from the cab which is mounted beneath the crab and rotates with it. The crane carries out all motions independently. It lifts a container or swap body from a truck and deposits it at the specified position, i.e. on a rail car or in the storage area.

Containers arriving by rail go through a similar sequence. The operator is notified of the arrival time in advance so he can schedule the extra time needed to unload an entire train. Containers are unloaded and deposited into storage or onto trucks waiting in the assigned lanes beneath the crane.

KSR says that the crane is designed to need little maintenance over its design life, and to have high availability. During the warranty period KSR is on 24-hour callout to guarantee an availability rate of 95%. So far it is ahead of target.