One man handles 80,000 tons

06/06/2007 Higher unloading capacity – shorter berthing times. The new Bühler Portalink 800 installed in the port of Durban helps the company Bidfreight save time and money. The commissioning of the new ship unloader in the port of Durban was no everyday event even for the managers of the Bidvest Group. Little wonder, therefore, that Koos Smith, Director of the Bidfreight affiliate SA Bulk Terminal (SABT), proudly explained to media representatives: “With the commissioning of the new ship unloader, our capacity has increased to 250,000 metric tons per month or 3 million tons per year – more than the total capacity of all other grain terminals in South Africa combined.”

10 instead of 26 days
And indeed – the data of the new SABT ship unloader, which handles free­flowing bulk materials in the port of Durban, is impressive. The Bühler Portalink 800 weighs 426 tons and has a boom length of 27 meters. The stunning rail­mounted structure can lift and lower its boom and kick its vertical marine leg in and out to handle 800 tons of grain per hour. It is also capable of discharging rice, soybeans, and sunflower seeds. A single man operates the steel giant from his cab or by radio control from the ship’s deck. In other words, one man unloads a 80,000­ton vessel virtually on his own. Together with the mechanical unloader also installed on the pier, which has a capacity of 290 tons per hour and was supplied by Bühler in 1976, the total capacity of the SABT installation has now increased to 18,000 tons per day. This means that the berthing time of a Panamax­class vessel has been reduced to a mere 10 days – a massive improvement over the 26 days required up to now that slashes the berthing costs.

Different specifications
SABT ordered the new Portalink 800 in August 2005. Installation work started in May 2006. The facility was commissioned on September 12 and inaugurated on November 6, 2006

The specialists from the Bühler Grain Handling business unit had to give consideration to a number of peculiarities during the engineering stage. One particular challenge concerned the special mode of feeding the existing conveyors that move the bulk material to the storage bins. In addition, the substructure of the Portalink – its gantry – had to be adapted to suit the limited load bearing capacity of the pier. To achieve a better distribution of the total weight, the unloader travels on 16 wheels on the waterfront side and on 10 on the land side.

The Bidvest Group, which was set up in South Africa in 1988, combines various international services, trading, and distribution companies. The listed Bidvest Group is headquartered in Johannesburg, has a global payroll of about 93,000, and in 2005 generated corporate sales (turnover) of 8.8 billion U.S. dollars. The Bidvest affiliate Bidfreight, which is based in Durban, is Africa’s largest logistics company south of the Sahara. Bidfreight also includes Maydon Wharf, a large materials handling facility in the port of Durban. Within Bidfreight, SA Bulk Terminal (SABT) is responsible for bulk materials unloading and handling operations.

The new Portalink 800 ship unloader of the Bidfreight affiliate SA Bulk Terminal in the port of Durban. The new Portalink 800 ship unloader of the Bidfreight affiliate SA Bulk Terminal in the port of Durban.


Corporate Communications