Recommended minimum safety features for quay container cranes
Ajoint initiative by TT Club, the insurance and related risk management services provider for the international transport and logistics industry; ICHCA International, the global association dedicated to the promotion of safety and efficiency in the handling and movement of goods by all modes and throughout the supply chain; and Port Equipment Manufacturers Association (PEMA) have produced an update to the ‘Recommended Minimum Safety Features for Quay Container Cranes’ document initially published in 2011.
Revision 1 of the document covers the main recommended safety features for quay container cranes that are not specifically described in national or international standards. It aims to inform terminal operators and OEMs about minimum safety features of quay container cranes to support them with retrofit and greenfield projects.
Born out of TT Club’s claims experience, the research has drawn together a formidable group of operational and engineering experience from around the globe to recommend solutions to common safety issues.
The publication calls for a new approach to the crane procurement process in order to recognise safety as an integral part of operational decisions that will minimise exposure to injury, damage and disruption costs over the life cycle of the equipment.
The recommended minimum safety features directly address the causes of accidents and failures identified by TT Club from its claims records. Some of these include:
Damage caused by collision
Accident statistics clearly demonstrate that collisions are a surprisingly recurrent problem. Most commonly, it is the boom of the crane that impacts a ship’s superstructure, resulting in substantial repair costs and consequent downtime. As a result, boom-to-vessel collisions are the single largest cost of quay crane claims. Many cranes have a trip wire boom collision prevention system that leads terminal operators to believe that they are protected from this sort of accident. However, trip wire systems tend to be maintenance-intensive, and depending on the speed of the gantry, can be ineffective in stopping the crane before a collision has occurred.
TT Club has for a number of years recommended the installation of radar or laser electronic sensors. This proven technology, integrated appropriately into the operational systems, allows the crane to come to a ‘normal’ stop prior to impact.
Other collisions include gantry and hatch cover collisions, spreaders and containers colliding with handrails, crane legs, and other mobile equipment.
Damage caused by high winds
TT Club’s publication ‘WindStorm II – Practical risk management guidance for marine & inland terminals’, emphasises that design features play an important part in minimising exposure. Non-technical people would be surprised at the ‘sail effect’ inherent in the ‘Meccano-like’ structures. There are innumerable instances of cranes being blown along the rails, colliding with neighbouring cranes, or being dislodged from the rails, often leading to structural collapse. While extreme conditions cannot be entirely avoided, the recommended baseline requirements include details for driven braking system and anemometer design and operational controls with an appropriate shutdown function. Further losses can be prevented through the installation of storm pins on both waterside and landside, as well as crane tie-downs on each corner of the crane – with appropriately positioned and engineered anchor points in the terminal apron.
Risk of fire
The incidence of fires in quay gantry cranes is low, certainly compared with mobile terminal equipment. However, the position of control machinery high up on the crane structure presents a considerable challenge to most port fire response services. Thus, it is important to install temperature and smoke detection systems and provide alarms for all relevant operational staff. Fully automatic fire suppression is also recommended.
The intention of the ‘recommendations’ is to urge suppliers to include as standard, not optional, the baseline safety features on this list in all their quotations for container quay cranes. Terminals and buyers are also recommended to incorporate such requirements in their tender specifications. In many instances the safety features identified can be retrofitted to existing equipment. This publication aims to contribute to protecting the substantial asset investment and minimising costs and injuries associated with any type of accident.
Quay crane structural integrity issues and crane collapses are not included in the minimum safety features list of this paper as it is not something that is specifically included in crane specifications as it is basically a maintenance issue. However, these issues are highlighted because structural failure is the third biggest insurance claim cost for quay cranes. Not only can this type of equipment failure be very costly in terms of repairs and operational down-time, but it can result in serious accidents and personal injuries.
It is essential for operators of ports and cargo handling facilities to establish and follow a regular schedule of maintenance and thorough examination of all the lifting appliances. Provisions for such examinations are specified in ILO Convention 152 and its accompanying Code of Practice, and together represent the international standard for the port industry. The purpose of a thorough examination is to ensure that cranes can continue to function safely and effectively. The integrity of cranes’ structure is crucial to this.
It is also recommended that an independent examination is always performed when procuring any type of crane. The ILO Convention requires that, prior to commissioning, lifting appliances are tested, and thoroughly examined. It is also recommended that appropriate mechanical and electrical inspections are carried out, during manufacture and commissioning, to check quality and conformance to standards and specifications – beyond any ILO Convention requirement. Once commissioned, a crane should be examined regularly during its operational life regardless of crane type, condition, environmental conditions, etc. Damage resulting from relatively minor impacts, regular heavy-lifts close or equal to safe working load limits, intensive use and general wear and tear can affect the integrity of a crane’s structure. Often, such operational issues can arise without anybody being aware of them so regular examinations need to be conducted. Any reported incident should prompt an immediate examination of a crane’s structural integrity. This advice applies not just to quay cranes but equally to fixed and mobile cranes of all types.