The skyline around Geraldton, Western Australia, recently received a new addition towering over its busy port precinct. A Liebherr LHM 280 mobile harbor crane was commissioned in early June by Qube Bulk and was immediately put to work loading mineral concentration cargoes utilizing Qube’s innovative Rotabox containerized bulk system. Todd Emmert, Director of Qube Bulk’s operations, said it would revolutionise loading and discharging cargo in the port with faster slew and luffing speeds. “We will increase our operational efficiency by 37.5%, increasing available port capacity for current and future Geraldton port clients.
Qube pioneered the design and development of container rotating tippers with integrated lid lifters and has been successful in attracting new concentrate exporters to the port as well as convincing existing port users to make the switch to a containerized bulk solution and reduce their supply chain costs. The Rotabox system enables ores and concentrates to be transported and loaded into vessels without creating a dust hazard, as the containers are lowered into the ship#s hold, the lid is then lifted when the container is out of the breeze, rotated to empty, and he lid replaced before leaving the protection of the hold.
Antony Perkins, Qube’s Director of Project Development, said “we handle a lot of concentrate through shiploaders across Australia and it’s a messy and expensive business. We looked for an alternative and there was nothing on the market so we set about to design and build our own system. As bulk haulage operations and stevedores we not only build the gear but we operate it. So we know day in day out how it operates and this has driven the continuous improvement on the design, because we use it.”
Lightweight Qube Concentrate Containers (QCCs) are also designed to minimize internal and external hang ups of product with minimal flat surfaces for container loading spillage to sit on. QCCs are also well tested with some boxes having been rotated over a thousand time under full payload with no signs of cracking or fatigue.
The containers come in a number of heights and cubic designs to minimize unnecessary weight depending on bulk density of the product and transport restrictions, up to 35 t of product is achievable in WA. Currently in its third generation, Qube’s Rotabox was designed to be self-powered with a light tare weight, making it suitable for use with ship’s cranes. This is appealing to exporters in ports that do not have access to shore cranes, like many of the 28 ports around the country where Qube is present.
Rotabox’s versatility also allows it to be operated from a shore crane and as Qube has multiple units available in Geraldton, vessels can be loaded simultaneously by both types of cranes, delivering a productivity boost. Qube has nine unit operations around Australia.
Emmer said interest in Qube’s Rotabox system has been driven by two factors. “Firstly, projects without fixed infrastructure at ports seeking to access port capacity and secondly, established exporters are reviewing their supply chains in an effort to make them more environmentally sustainable. Our system is prove to be best practice in environmental management and is well positioned to assist exporters make the transition from bulk shed and shiploader into Rotabox seamlessly.
“We are receiving dusting readings that are less than 10% of the port’s declared approval limits. At this stage, we haven’t even looked at putting in mist sprays, as the addition of water raises the potential to cause issues with the product.”
In addition to loading copper, zinc and nickel concentrates, Rotabox has tackled difficult to handle byproducts from mineral sands and refined zinc producers and is starting to export thermal coal.