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Busiest container port
On a sunny Saturday morning on 1 March 2003, a group of 25 members and guests of the Hong Kong branches of The Nautical Institute and the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers visited the Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) facility at the Kwai Chung container port area. HIT is the flagship of the Hutchison Port Holdings Group, being the biggest private container port operator. Despite concerns that the expansion of other ports in the region would have an adverse effect on Hong Kong's activity, Hong Kong Port is still the busiest port in the world with regards to TEU handled: 19.14 million TEU in 2002.
The duty manager, who led the visit, used a model to show the layout of the Kwai Chung port. The HIT terminal covers 92 hectares of land and is accessed via the Rambler Channel to the south. HIT operates 10 berths for ocean going vessels with depths alongside from 12.5 metres to 15.5 metres and four berths for barges. Opposite the existing terminals is the site of the ongoing expansion of the port, container terminal no. 9 (CT9) which will eventually cover 68 hectares of land, having six ocean going vessel berths. HIT will operate two berths with 19 hectares of land and the first berth will be operational by this summer. As well as the existing road access, there are also plans for a high road bridge (the Stonecutters bridge) across the Rambler Channel fairway, providing an additional link to CT9.
The group then moved on to the ship planning office, which is staffed by planners working at 12 networked Guider ship planning work stations. The terminal receives details of the prospective cargo to discharge from the shipping companies via EDI links, and also the loading stowage instruction with details of the available space onboard the vessel from the carrier. With the assistance of the ship planning system, the planner then arranges the stowage gang-split of the vessel so as to achieve the optimal vessel turnaround time in port. With the support provided by the system, export cargo can be accepted up to 6 hours before the vessel is due to arrive. Upon arrival, the ship is provided with a computer disk containing the cargo plan, so that the chief officer can cheek to verify if the vessel's stability condition is acceptable and sensitive cargoes, such as dangerous goods and refrigerated containers are stowed in designated areas. A typical cargo operation means a 6,000 TEU vessel may only stay in the port for 18 to 20 hours.
In the control tower, the group were shown the in-house developed operations monitoring systems (OMS) which allows the controllers to monitor the cargo operations of up to 12 vessels. According to the data in the crane working programme (CWP), each controller can communicate with the staff at the quay side as well as the quay crane and yard crane drivers. He can also see the status of operations at the quayside, and elsewhere within the container yard and the approach road traffic to the terminal via any one of the 48 CCTV cameras installed in the terminal. All the operation data is constantly updated to the terminal management system, productivity plus programme (3P). Twice a year the HIT Control Room staff will practice a contingency drill, using the second control tower.
The visit culminated with a yard tour to terminals 4, 6 and 7 by bus. For some on the yard tour, this was the first time they had witnessed container terminal cargo operations. Within HIT, there are a total fleet of over 250 chassis tractors, ferrying the containers within the terminal, as well as, 12 bridge cranes, 24 rail-mounted gantry cranes and 95 rubber tyred gantry cranes. Four rail-mounted jib cranes are used to handle the barge traffic at the Crosswharf. There are 35 quay cranes to serve the ocean going vessels, three of them being the super post-Panamax type quay crane of 60 tons capacity and 22 rows across and capable to handle twin moves of 20' containers.
Contributed by John B Wilson, MNI
Seaways June 2003