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News & Press: ULCV Handling Series

Stevedores & Ultra Large Container Vessels

Friday, March 16, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Laura Bird

ULCV Handling Series, Episode 2

Originally Posted in the March 2018 Maritime Bulletin

COSCO Development, the first ULCV to enter Virginia
COSCO Development: the First ULCV to Arrive in Virginia, May 2017

NORFOLK | Since the arrival of Ultra Large Container Vessels in 2017, businesses have been adapting to the differences that come with this new era. Physically, the ships are larger, taking up more space in the navigation channels and on the docks. A big ship used to mean that stevedores would need to make 400 moves, but now for the ULCVs, 2500 to 3000. 


Up to five gangs of roughly 22 people each are used to handle these larger vessels instead of the typical 2-3 gangs, a difference of roughly 40-50 stevedores. However, the decision is dependent partially on availability of cranes. 


“Sometimes we will choose to use less equipment on a ship even if the ULCVs can handle more cranes to avoid putting unnecessary strain on the equipment.” said Peter Cooke IV, Vice President of Ceres Marine Terminal. “This means a ship may be in the port for longer, but productivity shows improvement.”


Companies like Ceres Marine Terminal and CP&O, LLC help coordinate between the shipping lines to determine the loads and discharges, arrival times, and expected required labor.


“Overall, the workload for the longshoremen has not increased.” Cooke said, comparing before and after the ULCVs began arriving. “We’ve seen a slight increase in man hours, less vessel calls, and a slight increase in volume handling, up about 3-4% from two years ago.”


“Longshoremen are working more late nights and around the clock to get the job done,” shared Jim Ford of CP&O.  “If there are delays to a ship’s arrival, squeezing in another small ship is possible, but it’s difficult to squeeze in a 30-hour job…crews are just working as fast as possible.”


The Port Expansion Projects will make a huge difference in handling the ULCVs. Norfolk International Terminals and Virginia International Gateway plans to add 86 new cranes over the next two years (60 to NIT, 26 to VIG), adding 13 new container stacks.


“The more capacity you have, the less of a bottle neck and the more you can make up for the variance in ship schedules,” said Ford.


Being able to handle higher capacity ships is the future of the maritime industry, which is why port expansion and dredging our waters to accommodate the ULCVs is important.


“Virginia has always had deep water, it’s always been one of the things that has helped us grow to where we are now,” said Ford. “I think it will continue to be a part of our future, especially if we can get the support of our legislature and federal government to make the channels wider and deeper.”

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