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A responsible second life for APM Terminals port equipment

Posted on January 3, 2024

At APM Terminals, we aim to maximise the lifecycle of our assets, support a circular economy, and contribute to environmentally sustainable practices. A good example of this is the initiative taken when decommissioning 1,000-tonne cranes at the heart of our operations in a terminal.

In commissioning new, state-of-the-art cranes to modernise our facilities and better meet the needs of our customers today and tomorrow, we go out of our way to ensure the decommissioned equipment is handled in as respectful a way as possible. These cranes have served us well, and while they may have served their purpose with us, we want others to benefit from the contribution they can still make to lifting world trade.

Such is the case at Pier 400 in Los Angeles where eight 18-year-old RTG’s (rubber-tyred gantry cranes) have been moved to APM Terminals Elizabeth, New York and another seven to an external operator in South Africa. Similarly, three STS (ship to shore) cranes will leave Pier 400 bound for a customer in Vietnam, having been bought back for resell by Chinese manufacturer ZPMC. Another such case will happen in our terminal in Salalah, Oman soon. The instances of such transactions are increasing, triggered by new crane arrivals, the ending of concessions, automation, and decarbonisation upgrades.

In other words, our efforts to “Lift the Standard of Responsibility” and maximise efficiency come into play at every stage of an asset’s life. One aspect of addressing the need to reuse, refurbish and extend the life of mega-sized terminal equipment was borne from an idea hatched at APM Terminals seven years ago. It was an idea that sprang from the imagination of a colleague who unapologetically confesses to being ‘obsessed’ with the circular economy.

Digitised visibility solution

Prior to 2016, there was no central platform by which terminals could acquire used assets. It was the norm for the industry that managers typically used their own networks and contacts to explore the potential of purchasing equipment from those who no longer needed them. Finding equipment was often relationship driven, or down to sporadic luck. But that was before ‘waste obsessed’ Guantong “GT” Liu came on board at asset management.

Says GT: “Unfortunately, in some cases, the decision was made to scrap equipment on the spot without fully exhausting all reuse possibilities. That’s primarily because visibility was lacking, even within companies such as APM Terminals. There was a demand/supply disconnect. Secondly, scrapping was favoured because moving an item can be extremely costly and risky. However, depending on the location, the scrap value can come in at a loss rather than a gain.”

Multiple factors added up to make the online portal the most effective and proactive solution – and when it became clear that customers would benefit, the wheels were quickly set in motion.

New lease of life

It was clear to GT that a standardised process was needed so that assets could be given a ‘new lease of life’ in another location or role. What had to happen was global real time visibility. It came in the shape of APM Terminals’ web portal for ‘Used Port Equipment Sales’.

Currently, the portal offers a used Empty Container Handler in Spain, a Ship to Shore (STS) crane in Oman, and a rubber tyred gantry crane (RTG) in Egypt, to name just three of around 150 assets for sale on the site right now. The website provides assets at an affordable price for specific, shorter-term projects.

“A steel structure lasts approximately 25-40 years,” says GT. “Normally we cannot expect machinery to last much beyond this point. But within that timeframe, a terminal might find it no longer needs a particular asset, even though it might still have 10 or more good years left to offer.”

Responsible inevitabilities

Inevitably, however, there does come a time when responsible scrapping is the best solution. “When a scraping decision has been assessed – and we have set processes and procedures to determine such eventualities – we save as much as we can, and recover as many components, such as electrical drives, engines and gearboxes, as possible.”

If not resold, a scrapping scenario is at times preferable for GT rather than having a piece of equipment remaining idle for months, even years. On this subject, GT returns to his favourite topic – the avoidance of waste.

“Some items of equipment are for such specific use that their utilisation can be as low as 20%. And yet, as was previously the case, terminal managers were reluctant to sell, thinking the spare parts alone would be useful to keep.

“But we now have more efficient ways to proactively respond to unforeseen circumstances,” he says. “People in the industry can have more faith in equipment maintenance.” That sense of security has been reinforced by APM Terminals’ exclusive use of sister company Crane & Engineering Services (CES), which works closely with the global leader in crane manufacturing, ZMPC.

Optimising use

“Equipment is made to be used,” says GT, who wrote his INSEAD EMBA thesis on optimising resource allocation in the container terminal industry.

Asked for his thesis (and work experience) conclusions, and GT summarises: “We need better planning. Offering equipment for resale/relocation on short notice will often lead to sub-optimal results. It’s my aim to ensure that perfectly usable assets – which can cost millions to transport, even for dismantling – don’t see a scrap yard until they’ve come to the end of their workable lives.”

In the past few years, APM Terminals has transacted more than 60 deals through the portal for a total value of more than US$100 million. Not to mention the satisfaction of knowing

we’re lifting the standard of efficiency through the optimal use of perfectly fit-for-purpose equipment.

Interested in a Used Reach Stacker, STS Crane, Mobile Harbour Crane, RTG, Straddle Carrier, Terminal Tractor, or Top Handler? Visit Equipment is sold on an “as is – where is” basis. Detailed Terms & Conditions are provided on request.


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