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NEWS > SEPT 2019

New Gantry Cranes for the Virginia Port Authority

Konecranes gantry crane
Konecranes gantry crane being put to the test at The Port of Virginia

by Peter Hildebrandt, published in the August Issue of Wire Rope & News Technology

In the midst of questions on how U.S. international trade will fare in coming years, four Cantilever Rail Mounted Gantry (CRMG) cranes will soon be delivered to Virginia International Gateway (VIG) terminal as part of its expansion. The first two cranes were delivered in the spring of 2018. The last two were delivered in the first part of this year, 2019.

These are new Konecranes, CRMGs which are part of the expansion of the VIG’s intermodal yard, served by Norfolk Southern and CSX through an operating agreement with the Commonwealth Railway. The new CRMGs will load and unload trains and terminal trucks with containers in the VIG’s intermodal yard. They will be dedicated intermodal handling cranes covering four rail lines, with the truck slots being perpendicular to the rail lines.

In February 2017, Konecranes and the Virginia Port Authority in the USA signed a contract for the delivery of four cantilever rail mounted gantry (CRMG) cranes. This follows upon the signing of contracts between the Virginia Port Authority and Konecranes for the delivery of 86 Automated Stacking Cranes, which took place in November of 2016.

Norfolk International Terminals is the largest of the four port facilities in the Norfolk, Virginia area. With a land area of 648 acres, the terminal also has fifty-foot-deep entrance channels at the north and south ends. The terminal is serviced by 89,300 feet of rail track and 11 Suez-class container cranes. A marginal wharf, nearly one mile long provides five berth for ships transporting containerized, breakbulk, and roll-on/roll-off cargoes. NIT provides a vast amount of container storage space; 2,340,000 square feet total of covered pier, dry, and cold storage space; and space for 702 stacked trucks.

NIT was originally a surplus army base the City of Norfolk purchased in 1965. The city outfitted the base with a container crane and put a one-berth container facility in service in addition to the breakbulk capacity already available. A second container berth and two more container cranes were added in the early 1970s.

The Virginia Port Authority used a $12 million appropriation from the General Assembly to acquire NIT on July 1, 1972. Slightly more than half the money went to pay obligations to the city and terminal; the remainder was dedicated to purchasing a fourth container crane, extending the container berth, and improving support structures.

The Port of Virginia received four new ship-to-shore (STS) cranes in early 2019 as the latest step in its $320 million capacity expansion project was completed in June. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new cranes and project took place on July 23, 2019.

Once operational, these 170-foot-tall cranes will be the largest on the U.S. East Coast and will be able to service the ultra large container vessels (ULCVs) calling at Virginia International Gateway (VIG) for decades to come, the Norfolk, Va.-based port said.

This delivery marks the completion of the port’s 2017 approval of a $44.8 million dollar order from Shanghai, China-based Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. (ZPMC). Under terms of the contract, ZPMC provided the cranes, parts, delivery, and installation, including arrival aboard ZPMC’s Zhen Hua 27 ship in January, 2019.

The expansion comes just weeks after the port said it had set a new record for the amount of cargo volume handled in a single month, processing more than 270,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in November. The remainder of the expansion project includes upgrades to the facility’s berth, rail operation, and stack yard and will bring its annual container throughput capacity to 1.2 million units. Combined with another expansion, the work will increase the port’s overall annual container capacity by 40 percent, or 1 million container units, by 2020, according to port officials.

“These cranes are the biggest of the big - the largest ZPMC has ever delivered to this country,” says Virginia Port Authority (VPA) Board Chairman John G. Milliken, this, following the port’s approval of the crane order. “What is unique about these cranes is their outreach; they will be able to reach across a vessel that is 26 containers wide, which is three-to-four containers wider than most cranes. “We anticipated needing this capacity (of the cranes) for the ships that will be coming to Virginia 10 years from now. When that day comes The Port of Virginia will be ready.”

Overall, the Virginia Port Authority (VPA) and its subsidiary Virginia International Terminals LLC (VIT) own and operate four general cargo facilities: Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County.

During the 1980s, NIT attracted the business of such firms as the Nissan Motor Corporation and Evergreen. The Virginia Ports Authority even dredged deeper channels, added a fourth berth, built a 32,000-square-foot warehouse, purchased three high-speed gantry cranes, and paved another container storage area. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the VPA continued to expand the facilities, replace old cranes, and add new ones, until it reached its present capacity. On July 16, 2008, the three newest, and largest, cranes were delivered to the terminal.

The 15th of November, 2016, saw the Board of Commissioners of the Virginia Port Authority approving the deal to Konecranes for 86 Automated Stacking Cranes (ASCs) in two contracts. The signing of those documents took place on the 17th of November.

The award covers the provision of 86 ASCs in two contracts, the first for 60 ASCs for Norfolk International Terminals and the second for 26 ASCs for Virginia International Gateway. Deliveries are scheduled in phases for 2018-2020. The value of the contracts exceeds EUR 200 million, making this the largest deal ever won by Konecranes in the firm’s history.

The Virginia Port Authority, marketed as The Port of Virginia, is the fifth largest port in the USA, and is one of the largest economic engines for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The port has experienced record growth over the past two years and is in the midst of two large-scale infrastructure projects at its largest container terminals.

Aerial view showing the finished installation of the gantry cranes.
Aerial view showing the finished installation of the gantry cranes.

“Once the construction is done and these cranes are in place and operational, our port will have the capacity to process an additional 1 million containers annually,” explains Virginia Governor Terry R. McAuliffe. “The site will also have the channel depth to handle the biggest ships in the Atlantic trade and double-stack rail service offered by Norfolk Southern and CSX to some of the nation’s most important markets.”

The agreement between Konecranes and the VPA covers two projects. The first is redevelopment of container handling operations at Norfolk International Terminals (NIT). The second is expansion at Virginia International Gateway (VIG). Konecranes supplied the Automated Stacking Crane system currently working at Virginia International Gateway. It has been working, reliably and productively, for ten years. Both projects involve the formation of new automated container handling operations. Konecranes supplies the automated stacking cranes (ASCs) based on automated rail mounted gantry cranes (ARMGs). Sixty ASCs will be delivered to NIT. They will stack containers one-over-five, and then in turn nine containers wide. Twenty-six ASCs will be delivered to VIG. They will stack containers one-over-five, eight containers wide. Globally, Konecranes has delivered 174 ASCs of the same type in 11 projects.

“Konecranes is able to take complete responsibility for this type of very large delivery because the company has extensive crane knowledge and experience from similar large projects,” adds John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Port of Virginia. “The product is field-proven, the delivery is on-time and ultimately, on-budget.

“We are looking forward to putting them into use. And this in turn should further increase our ability to serve as an economic engine for the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

“I am proud of the great confidence that The Port of Virginia has placed in us,” says Panu Routila, President and CEO of Konecranes. “We will make sure that we deserve their confidence as these projects move forward and the new terminals go online.”

This Virginia concept is the benchmark, according to Mika Mahlberg, senior vice president and head of BU Port Cranes, Konecranes. “Konecranes also supplied the Port of Virginia’s current automated stacking crane system in 2007. The concept we developed with the Port of Virginia at the time, the ‘Virginia Concept’, has established itself as the benchmark around the world. Since 2007, every new automated stacking crane container terminal has used the Virginia Concept to a greater or lesser degree.”

The United States is a strategic country for Konecranes across many industries, including container handling. The Americas headquarters in Springfield, Ohio, has over 2,100 employees in the USA and branch offices in 44 states that carry out sales and service activities.

Konecranes will work dependably in the weather conditions that prevail at a shipyard. The company has even delivered cranes to the Arctic north, where they typically withstand extreme sub-zero temperatures. Konecranes have been sent to desert environments as well, where they endure dust storms and extreme heat. And everything in between has been experienced by these cranes too.

They function well in every kind of climate and they come in all shapes and sizes. Konecranes shipyard lifting equipment ranges from small chain hoists that can raise a few dozen kilos, all the way up to the enormous Goliath Gantry Crane, which they’ve delivered, and with a lifting capacity of 2,000 tons combined with a 210-meter rail span in a single crane.

Looking beyond the nuts and bolts, cargo moving through the Port of Virginia facility is transported from and to markets around the globe, carrying the goods and supplies that manufacturers, corporations, and individual consumers use in their daily lives all the time. This cargo is moved by way of these six terminals on 1,864 acres at berth of up to 50 feet in depth. The place also has 30 miles of on-dock rail to do the work.

This deep water harbor–the deepest on the US East Coast–shelters the world’s largest naval base; a thriving shipbuilding and repair industry; robust export coal trade and the sixth largest containerized cargo complex in the United States.

The port offers 50-foot channels, inbound and outbound, and is the only US East Coast port with Congressional authorization to dredge to 55 feet. In an era where container ships are carrying tens of thousands of twenty-foot equivalent units per voyage, deep water and the absence of overhead restrictions is a significant competitive advantage.

According to an economic impact study conducted by the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary, 374,000 Virginia jobs – nearly ten percent of the state’s resident workforce – are linked to port activity across our six terminals. Those jobs generate $17.5 billion in annual compensation and $1.4 billion in state and local taxes.

The Port of Virginia is a hub port; an important distinction for the shipping public. Nearly 30 international shipping lines offer direct, dedicated service to and from Virginia, with connections to 200+ countries around the world. In an average week, more than 40 international container, breakbulk and roll-on / roll-off vessels are serviced at our marine terminals.

The current U.S. President has stated he would hit Mexican and China with tariffs of 35% tariff and 45%, respectively – China is also the biggest importer to the Port of Virginia. “But almost every piece of clothing you have on you is made oversees,” explains Professor Vinod Agarwal an economics professor at Old Dominion University who’s analyzed potential effects of the political climate on Hampton Roads. “When we participate in international trade, the basic principle is countries will specialize in commodities that they are relatively better at producing.”

But because goods are cheaper to produce oversees, many U.S. manufactures closed down factories and moved them abroad, then shipped their goods back in the county under a relativity lower tariff. Air conditioning manufacturer, Carrier, planned to move its factory from Indiana to Mexico, which would have triggered a loss of an estimated 1,000 jobs.

“But when Trump threatened to slap the company with a 35% tariff, Carrier reversed course,” adds Agarwal. “So domestic producers who were not able to compete with those companies earlier might be able to get back into business and yes, produce some more.”

At the Port of Virginia which employs 6,373 workers, was also found by a College of William and Mary study to dole out an estimated $700 million a year in salaries. China is its biggest importer with textiles such as clothing and toys, being the top product.

Such actions would create a boost in jobs, but advances in automation would mean that many of those jobs would not return and for those that do, the cost of labor associated with making their products could be cost-prohibitive, according to Argawal.

“When you needed cheap shirts for example, you went to Walmart may have paid about $15. Now you’re going to start paying $20 a shirt. And with a higher tariff this would also affect the number of people who are employed at the port and the money that it generates for the Hampton Roads community.

“The irony here is the world is changing very fast and we need to keep on changing with the world. This includes the need to look at different avenues to produce new types of jobs.”

Despite tariff increases introduced under the current administration, the Port of Virginia continues its $320 million expansion project. Efforts go on – despite the uncertainty – to generate more business for the Hampton Roads economy, with work streamlined through the use of these new, state-of-the-art gantry cranes. The project made its completion target for June, 2019. The end of the stack-yard work left only two projects to be completed before the entire $320 million dollar effort came to a close in June of 2019. With the completion of stack Number One, the terminal now has 13 additional container stacks, each served by two new rail mounted gantry cranes (RMGs). The new stacks compliment 15 existing stacks, also served by RMGs. Those stacks are on a schedule to be refurbished throughout the year with two stacks complete and three underway.

The expansion has doubled the terminal’s annual container throughput capacity: VIG can now process 1.2 million container lifts a year. The expanded stack-yard is being combined with four new ship-to-shore cranes, 800 additional feet of berth space, four new lanes at the truck gate, a new terminal operating system and a new, a completely reconfigured on-dock rail yard with nearly 20,000 feet of track served by four new cantilever rail mounted gantry cranes.

“The project team and the operations team have executed and must be commended for their work and collaboration,” Reinhart said. “We had construction and container operations working in parallel. The teams were faced with a lot of challenges, but they overcame and kept focus. In February 2017, we started work on what was a green-field site – we started from scratch – and now we are just a few months from completion.” The ship-to-shore cranes – currently the largest in the Western Hemisphere – were ready for service, as anticipated, in March, with the rail yard reaching completion in May, 2019. The VIG expansion is one of two large-scale capacity expansion projects that, when complete, will increase the port’s overall annual container capacity by 40 percent, or 1 million container units, by 2020.

In early 2018, the port began the expansion of the south stack container yard at Norfolk International Terminals (NIT). The $375 million project will allow the port to create greater density for cargo at South NIT and expand annual capacity there by 400,000 containers. At South NIT, the container stack yard will be completely reconfigured and equipped with 60 new rail mounted gantry cranes. With the project’s completion by 2020, including the first group of 12 new container stacks – Phase 1 – which were delivered in February. Work had begun on Phase II’s six stacks in December, 2018; Phase III’s work on 12 stacks began in May, 2019.

“The ongoing investment in The Port of Virginia puts it in the best position to become the US East Coast’s premiere port, a true gateway to world trade and a catalyst for commerce in Virginia,” adds Reinhart. Along with the wharf expansion of an additional 800 feet also comes four additional Suez-class cranes as well as a stack and container yard expansion featuring 13 additional container stacks, 26 additional rail mounted gantry cranes, and 28 stacks at completion. Their rail yard expansion features 19,600 feet of track at completion and four cantilever rail mounted gantry cranes. The gate expansion has four additional inbound gate lanes, 17 inbound and 13 outbound gate lanes when complete, along with technology improving the N4 terminal operating system and TRS reservation system for motor carriers.

Now this $375 million dollar capacity expansion is complete, a project that will expand NIT’s annual throughput capacity by 400,000 container units. “A little more than a year ago an area the size of 30 football fields was cleared and today we’re processing thousands of containers through that same space,” says Reinhart. “We are forty-percent of the way through construction and are seeing good flow at the gates and are maintaining a strong, customer-focused effort during construction.”

All of these new cranes are part of a new expansion, of the entire Virginia Gateway which just wrapped up in June, 2019 and followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 23rd.

“We now have two very big container facilities costing hundreds of millions dollars for its construction which will in turn process many hundreds of millions in cargo,” says Joseph Harris, Port of Virginia spokesman. “Nearly 400 million dollars is being spent at the Norfolk International Terminal just across the river for the facility at the Port of Virginia. The NIT operation will be done in 2020, meaning that the entire expansion project operation will then be complete.

“It’s important to point out that in the midst of all this construction work we still continued our regular operations as a shipping center. With the one shipping center done and the other halfway there, we were out marketing the Port of Virginia quite aggressively along with its capacity. This, at the same time we worked to control our growth because we did not want to get beyond our capacity either.”

For more about KoneCranes go to www.konecranesusa.com.


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