The yard crane market - Part IBy: Martin C. Pilsch, Equipment and Port DevelopmentEven though rubber tired yard gantry cranes (RTGs) out number their rail mounted cousins (RMGs) and automated stacking cranes (ASCs), RTG manufacturers continue their race to develop increased dimensions, alternative power systems and automated features so that their product will compete favorably with the advantages offered by the rival RMG/ASC systems. It is interesting to note that the majority of the leading RTG manufacturers also are leaders in the RMG market and a number of those have also developed the technology necessary to market ASC.
If you like to play the numbers game, production records demonstrate that there are far more RTGs in the field than the combined populations of RMGs/ASC. One manufacturer alone has produced over 2,000 RTGs. The estimated number of RTGs manufactured during the last four years totaled over 3,000 while the number of RMG/ASC during the same period totaled over 540.
These statistics are divided between port and intermodal rail applications. While the gap is slowly narrowing (statistics between 2005 and 2008 supporting this, demonstrate that the ratio of RTGs to RMG/ASC sales has been reduced from 5:1 to 3:1), it may take a decade or more to even the respective populations. Despite a prognosis of somewhat slower development, it is significant to note that RMG/ASC systems have experienced a surge and production is expected to top 200 units in 2009. Average RTG production has hovered at the 600 level during three of the last four years.
Automated versions of the RMG/ASC have been concentrated at the newer marine terminals in Europe, however, other regions such as Asia and Eastern Europe are experiencing growth. North America received its first fleet of ASC at the new APM Terminal in Portsmouth, Virginia and manufacturer Konecranes will deliver 13 more to two rail intermodal yards.
The major differences between RTGs and RMG/ASC are in the method of gantry and power source. RTGs move on rubber tires and are powered by internally mounted diesel electric systems. The RMG/ASCs move on rails and are primarily powered by electricity. The major difference between RMGs and ASC is that the ASC is designed specifically for unmanned, automated operations. Based upon this, RTGs enjoy the flexibility of moving from one stack of containers to the other. In addition, the system costs less to implement. Once installed, however, RMG/ASC enjoy reduced costs of operation, increased density, the ability to operate with increased speeds and unmanned automation.
The use of RTGs in North America, stretches along the coastline from Northeast Ports in Canada to the Pacific Northwest Port of Vancouver, BC. At least one terminal in each major container port within this area depends upon the rubber tired yard gantry crane for container management and storage density. Throughout the hinterland, there are numerous rail intermodal terminals using RTGs to unload container unit trains. In comparison, RMGs operate in a small number of ports and rail intermodal yards and there are 30 ASC in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Ports have realized the positive impact that the RTG has had upon the numbers of containers that are handled per acre at their terminals. After a reduction in RTG population in the US during the late 1980’s and early ‘90s for example, the realization of the need for increased density and limits on increasing storage areas spearheaded a return of this mode of container handling during the mid to late 1990s. During the late 1990’s and into the 2000’s, RTG populations have increased dramatically and their capabilities became increasingly important as larger vessels with increased container volumes threatened to choke the flow of cargo through many of the gateway container ports. Today, however, with ports realizing double digit down turns in container volumes and