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JIS News

With the port of Kingston set to become the next ‘Dubai of the Americas’, the antiquated cranes, which have been in operation from as far back as 1975, have been taken out of service to make way for a more technologically-driven operation.
In January of this year, the Port Authority bought four ship-to-shore gantry cranes from China at a cost of US$23 million, to add to the nine that were acquired over the last nine years.
And, with the equipment up and running since April, that section of the port’s operation is now totally modernized.
Dr. Ian Blair, Senior Vice President of Operations and Development at the Port Authority, informs JIS News that the acquisition brings to 13, the total number of cranes in operation on the wharf.
He says that the new cranes are far superior to the older models. “There is simply no comparison because one is vintage and one is state-of the art. These are much more modern cranes; much more sophisticated, software-driven (and) powered by shore power, meaning that they are powered by electricity from the Jamaica Public Service electricity grid as opposed to its own steel power generator. In that respect, they are far more efficiently driven cranes,” he boasts.
The cranes are made to handle larger vessels so they move at a much faster speed.
The acquisition of the cranes is part of an ongoing process of expansion of the port of Kingston, which includes putting in modern equipment to enable the facility to maintain its leadership position in the region.
Much like Dubai, which is the gateway to trade connections in the Far East, the Middle East, Southern Europe and North Africa, Jamaica sits at the centre of connections between South America, Central America and North America, thus placing the island at the hub of the Americas.
With the addition of the new equipment, the port of Kingston now has a more efficient fleet, Dr. Blair states, noting that the port has never been able to consistently get more than 20-22 moves an hour with the vintage cranes. This is in comparison to the 35 moves an hour presently being performed by the latest fleet.
In addition, the equipment is operating at 96 per cent reliability, only 2.5 per cent shy of the port’s standard, which is somewhere around 98.5 per cent. “We still have a further 2.5 per cent reliability to go, but I would say it is a big leap. At this point, it is satisfactory as we go down the learning curve,” he notes.
With the cranes able to handle more moves, this will no doubt increase productivity at the port, but Dr. Blair explains that, “productivity largely depends on how you feed the cranes and how you move the containers coming from the cranes. At the same time, the speed at which these cranes operate are much faster, so therefore they can in fact contribute to increased productivity. They can lift heavier weights and they can lift two boxes together, so that also can increase the productivity”.
He notes that while there were a few teething problems during the start-up phase, as is the case with any new mechanical equipment, the difficulties have been ironed out and the workers are coping.
“You have familiarity with the engineering staff to ensure that they also understand how to cope with the problems. at the same time, we have to best solve the problems as they arrive,” he points out.
And, with the addition of the new equipment, what has been the fate of the vintage cranes? Dr. Blair informs JIS News, that three have been sold, two went to an outfit in Puerto Rico and one went to an operation in North Carolina.
The other two, he says, were part of the sales contract and have been removed by the contractor, who supplied the new cranes. As to what will happen to these, Dr. Blair says the decision rests with the contractor.
Already, there are plans to acquire more modern cranes as soon as the next phase of port expansion gets underway, when according toDr. Blair, six more cranes will be added to the existing fleet.