How Do They Lift Shipping Containers Safely?

Safe shipping container handling is one of the most important stages in the life cycle of these units. It will set the stage for the life span of the unit, as well as its durability and aesthetics. While technology and automation have certainly come a long way in helping solve problems related to shipping container handling, there still has to be human involvement along the way to ensure safety protocols are met.

Safety in handling a shipping container is critical in avoiding mishaps and accidents. Shipping containers are made of strong COR-TEN steel, and are very heavy even when empty. In fact, a 20-foot container can weigh more than 5,000 pounds, or more than 55,000 pounds when full.

At shipping yards, you often see heavy lifting equipment handling containers in bulk, lifting and moving containers around the yard and onto trucks for transport. Let’s go over the different container handling equipment that is used in such yards to ensure safety and efficiency in daily operations.

1.    Gantry Cranes

These are large cranes usually used on docksides to lift, stack and move shipping containers of all kinds. You’ll often see the large ones used in ports, with smaller, rail-mounted ones being used in container depots. While efficient in port operations featuring high container turnover, they are expensive in terms of installation and maintenance.

2.    Container Lifting Jacks

These jacks have the ability to lift containers as heavy as 70,000 pounds. While they are portable, affordable, can handle a variety of containers and can fit in tight spaces, they are unable to move containers around the site or stack them.

3.    Straddle Carrier

These carriers, which comes in many sizes, can lift containers from their tops. While they have good on-site mobility, moving containers with ease, they are very cumbersome and must be mounted to a stable concrete surface. Small straddle carriers, called “mini straddles” can be utilized by exporters, importers, and container depots with low to medium turnover.

4.    Reach Stacker

These are able to lift and move heavy containers on-site, transferring them between the ground, rail wagons, stacks, and chassis. It’s possible to stack two to three containers high. Ground personnel are not required for operation – they can be controlled from the driver’s seat. While mobile, their use is relegated to single sites.

5.    Forklifts

These are some of the most common pieces of equipment you will see in a shipping container yard. Designed for light use, they’re versatile and also commonly used in the manufacturing and warehousing industries. They can move goods over short distances, and can also move empty containers from place to place.

Forklift handling can be dangerous, though, when lifting full containers, as uneven goods inside can cause the unit to tip. These multipurpose machines are cost effective and can move around tight spaces, but they’re not good for transporting large or heavy containers.

6. Tilt-Deck Chassis

These lower the deck’s back end to the ground so the containers can easily slide off the vehicle. Like forklifts, this option is best suited for empty or lightly-loaded containers.

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