UK firm launches revolutionary new container loading system

UK firm launches revolutionary new container loading system article image

A UK company has launched a new system that it claims could save the industry up to $1 billion every year by blocking and lifting six empty containers at a time.

The revolutionary new container handling system was developed to help ease the increasing global problem of port congestion.

The system was launched at a technical demonstration in Shanghai late last month.

Called BLOK-BEAM, the system enables six containers to be lifted and transported as one single block – largely using existing port infrastructure.

“Now that ships are able to deliver around 20,000 20ft containers on one vessel – and the cranes to service them can lift up to 100 tonnes at a time – it is the ports which, in spite of their improved efficiency, have become the focus of attention in ship-to-shore movement.” says John Evans, Managing Director of BLOK-BEAM.

Ports now handle more than 500 million containers a year, of which as many as 25% are empty, says Evans.

And with container terminals charging up to US$300 per lift, the potential savings to the industry are massive.

Vast expense

“We estimate that if only one-third of empty moves of containers are handled by BLOK-BEAM, the industry would save over US$2 billion per year,” says Evans.

This is apart from the vast expense of idle time, fuel savings, general efficiency, losses at sea and safety.

The BLOK-BEAM system was invented by Evans and business partner Martin Clive Smith to speed the loading of empty ISO freight containers onto container ships.

In 2012 the World Shipping Council estimated that over 14 million 20ft containers were returned empty from Europe and North America back to the Far East because there was no cargo for the return journey, known as the “Empty Leg”. And this imbalance remains a problem for freight companies.

Normally containers are lifted one or two at a time by gantry cranes, fitted with automatic spreaders.

Container weights

BLOK-BEAM consolidates empty containers into a single unit of six or more containers (a BLOK) ready for lifting as a one unit.

The tare weight of a 20ft container is approximately 2 ton, a 40ft around 4 ton.

Most terminal cranes can lift a loaded 40ft container (34 ton) and 40 ton when they lift hatch overs. Two 40fts or four 20fts can be lifted with twin-Lift spreaders, but in many terminals containers are lifted on and off ships one at a time.

BLOKs can be assembled ahead of time, providing a balanced work load which avoids Stevedores having to work extended shifts, or unsocial hours. With BLOK-BEAM it is possible to raise lifting rates from a present average of 30 containers per hour, to over 180 per hour – a significant increase in productivity.

The BLOK-BEAM System allows all existing STS Cranes to lift empty containers at speeds of 180 containers per hour. 

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