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Navigating the risks of stevedoring

Posted 4 years ago by Anthony Desira (VICT General Manager of Operations) | 4 Minute(s) to read

Little over a year ago, Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) welcomed its first vessel to Australia’s most automated container terminal, located at Webb Dock East, Port Melbourne. The newly built, world class container terminal has been at the forefront of innovation and technology by collaborating with industry experts, such as Kalmar, Bromma, Navis, ABB and ZPMC. The facility operates by integrating several systems with equipment that include 5 Neo-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes, 20 Automatic Stacking Cranes (ASC) and 11 Automatic Container Carriers (ACC).

The stevedoring industry has changed over the years to welcome new technologies and equipment that improve safety standards. The introduction of these technologies has meant VICT can reduce the majority of serious risk and dangerous situations associated with the industry.

In a horrifying statistic, ICHCA reports that one person around the world dies every week due to a stevedoring related injury. Stevedoring can be an unpredictable industry due to the constant changes in the environment, including; high winds, lightning, poor visibility due to rain, fog or significant vessel movement. WorkSafe Victoria describes stevedoring as, “a vast array of environmental, physical, mechanical and psychosocial risks.” The introduction of automation reduces the unsafe and risky environments for personnel.

After the recent ICHCA and Global Shippers Forum Conference in Melbourne, Captain Richard Brough, ICHCA International and IMO Maritime Safety Committee, believes “automation is removing people from danger”. And that can be achieved by getting people out of the container yard and moving them to other, higher skilled jobs. Being an automated container terminal, VICT eliminates many of these risks because the cranes are operated in a control room 1.2 kilometres away from the quay.

Industry experts in port automation, Kalmar, recognised there is a myth behind automation; that it will give higher productivity, reduce overall costs and have faster performance. In reality, automation brings consistency, predictability, reduces damages, improves planning and delivers accuracy. All of these factors provide a safer work place with less damage to equipment.
Laurence Jones, Director Global Risk Assessment from TT Club, the leading provider of insurance to the international cargo handling industry, stated at the recent Melbourne conference, “the biggest insurance costs relating to container packing issues is the cargo not being secured. This can result in the cargo moving and causing the container to be eccentrically or unevenly loaded which can result in trucks overturning and trains derailing”. If the right technology is implemented, this could be picked up earlier within the supply chain. The load sensing spreaders used in VICT’s Automatic Stacking Cranes (ASC) picks up any discrepancies and if there is an eccentric load, we can warn the truck drivers. The ASCs measure the load of the cargo from both ends of the container, with the spreader weighing technology being 99 per cent accurate.

Jones hopes that container spreader twistlock load sensing technology, like that used at VICT, which can measure eccentricity, “will one day be standard like seat belts in a car, as it will save lives”. Currently the onus is on the shipper to make sure the cargo is secured and packed correctly. All cargo should be weighed when it’s packed, this does not always guarantee it is correct. A number of imports arrive at VICT with a significant deviation to the declared weight, exports are not as sizeable but still have some variance. Our technology allows us to correct these weight inaccuracies. If this technology was universally used by all stevedores, the risk could be controlled by elimination or isolation earlier in the supply chain process. If there are any discrepancies, we notify the trucking company through our Vehicle Booking System (VBS) of the container weight so they send the correct trailer to collect the container.

By harnessing the equipment and technology available at VICT, we have the potential to deliver a service to assist with the new provisions to the Chain of Responsibility (CoR), which will come into effect on 1 October 2018. These changes ensure all components of the supply chain are compliant with allowable weights, vehicle dimensions, load restraint, driver fatigue, vehicle speed and maintenance.

Safety in the workplace is a right, but also an obligation, a Danish proverb states ‘if you have the ability you have the obligation’. As an industry we take on the responsibility and should always be proactive about eliminating risk and danger in what has traditionally been one of the most dangerous industries in the world. There is little doubt that automation has provided many safety benefits and in the future this will only continue to improve as we continue to innovate.

About the Author

Tony Desira – General Manager of Operations, VICT
Tony Desira began work as a Straddle Operator in 1996 after completing a Business & Computing degree at Victoria University. With numerous stevedoring roles under his belt, Tony now head up operations at the fully-automated Victoria International Container Terminal in the Port of Melbourne.

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