The quick and safe unloading of a sea-going vessel is of prime
importance in any large port operation. Until now, only simple
‘teach-in’ methods have existed for it. In practice such methods
can only be used for small, smooth flowing types of load and
ideal hatch configurations. Continuous manual supervision is
also necessary. Alternative techniques (e.g. continuous ship
unloaders — CSUs) have not yet been able to establish
themselves completely in the field of heavy bulk goods
(particularly ore).
In Hamburg, Germany’s largest seaport, Hansaport and iSAM
AG (Mulheim an der Ruhr) have for the first time accomplished
a fully-automated unloading operation. The world’s first fully
automated stacker/reclaimers (combined stackers and bucketwheel
excavators) were already in operation at Hansaport in
2001, followed a year later by automated of train loading
Automatic grab unloading completes the process chain and
permits continuous unloading operations, 24 hours a day and 7
days a week, with no break-time or shift-change interruptions.
The basics of the automation system are a 3D laser scanner
for reliable mapping of material distribution in the cargo holds,
high-precision satellite navigation, and an inertial navigation
system from the aeronautics field for the real-time tracking of
grab manoeuvres. In this way it is possible to lower the fully
laden grab, weighing up to 35t, at the desired point with an
accuracy of greater than 50cm — including swing suppression —
and to do this 60 times in an hour.
Hansaport had already decided to test this concept in 2007
and placed an order for a prototype with iSAM AG. It then took