LCT, Togo: RTGs that Go Above and Beyond

In Solutions by Alisa Evans

First Published in Konecranes WayUp Magazine

The TIL Group’s brand new container terminal on the West African coast is open for business, and looks set to become the region’s premier container transshipment terminal.

At sunrise Togo’s Lomé Container Terminal (LCT) is a delightful 19 degrees Celsius. The  morning breeze does not yet betray the tropical storm brewing offshore. From atop Ship-to-Shore crane #03 the terminal looks like a concrete oasis, with new Konecranes Rubber Tired Gantry (RTG) cranes and lift trucks moving steadily about their business between neatly ordered stacks of containers. From up here, one can clearly see where the calm industriousness of the port ends and the early morning thrum of downtown Lomé abruptly begins. Fat raindrops begin to fall, and as we dash for our vehicles the terminal becomes a blur of warm rain.

The storm does not last long and soon the familiar beep-beep-beep of moving RTGs once again fills the air.

“The LCT project will put Lomé on the map as one of the world’s important ports and container terminals, and as the first deep sea port enabling transhipment from mainliners directly from the Far East to the West Coast of Africa,” LCT’s Chief Executive, Fred Kamperman, explains.

“We have received outstanding support from every department of the Togolese government,” he continues.  This should come as no surprise –  at 300 million euros, LCT is the largest-ever private investment project in Togo.

The terminal is only halfway complete and already operates at 1.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) per year – final capacity will be 2.2 million TEUs. As Marc Desmons, TIL’s Engineering Services Manager, blithely puts it, “We have only just begun.”

LCT’s goal is simple – to become the premier transshipment container terminal on the west coast of Africa replete with state-of-the-art systems and equipment. Current ship drafts in the region are limited to between 11 meters and 11.5 meters. In 2015, LCT already has a draft of 16.6 meters. LCT has the option to expand by another 40 hectares whenever the business dictates.

The terminal is currently able to handle container ships of up to 14,000 TEUs, and new equipment on order will be capable of accommodating the largest container ships with a capacity of 18,400 TEUs.

When the terminal is operating at full capacity, Desmons is adamant that the terminal’s RTGs will complete 4,000 running hours annually, for a total of 55,000 moves per year –  the maximum design capacity of the machines.

Naturally, a large part of achieving such efficiency is selecting the right equipment. Last year, LCT purchased 22 RTGs – 12 of which have been delivered, with another 10 in  production – as well as four reach stackers and seven empty container handlers from Konecranes.

Altogether, Konecranes has delivered in excess of 100 RTGs and 1,000 lift trucks to Africa. The company understands the challenging operational environment and the importance of manufacturing machines that adhere to the highest standards of endurance and reliability.

TIL opted to primarily operate electric RTGs at LCT. Desmons and his team calculated that an electric RTG can save up to 60% of the fuel and maintenance costs associated with diesel RTGs. While the electrification of RTGs is a growing trend around the world, in Africa it is almost unheard of.

When challenged on the point that the supply of electricity is unreliable in many parts of Africa, LCT is bullish: “Not only do we have undertakings from the government regarding electricity supply, we are connected to the grid via Benin and Lomé Bay. Having said that, we do have a back-up diesel-driven power plant with a capacity of 15 megawatts, so we can operate the terminal during any power failure,” says Kamperman.

The fact that so much of their state-of-the-art equipment is a first for Togo made finding and training local crane operators a real challenge. To help the crane operators, Konecranes not only customized the RTG cabins and controls to LCT’s specifications, but also ensured that the terminal had a full set of real controls for the training simulations that were developed. Immersive product familiarization and safety awareness provided by Konecranes were also important parts of the intensive training given to the crane operators.

LCT’s electric RTGs are powered by a busbar system featuring a specially built power rail. They can connect and disconnect from the power rail automatically by means of a specialized arm, and can be moved across the terminal using a small diesel engine. LCT’s RTGs are integrated with the terminal’s computerized power system, which is designed to monitor the power consumption of all of the facility’s buildings and equipment. LCT also opted for Konecranes’ TRUCONNECT® Remote Monitoring service, which allows Konecranes technicians to monitor the cranes remotely and collaborate with on-site engineers to fix problems that might occur.

“We knew that we were going to come here with very high-tech equipment, so first we had to be certain that we had all of the support from the equipment suppliers to provide service and maintenance that is not necessarily available locally,” says Desmons. “Konecranes are world leaders in what they do – they are at the cutting edge of lifting technology. However, the on-the-ground support and local know-how provided by Paterson Simons played a large role in our decision.”

Paterson Simons is a UK-based lifting and handling equipment sales and service provider with offices in Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and soon Liberia. Using a combination of local and expat skills, they provide the critical service and maintenance back-up that Konecranes customers in the region demand.

Henry Lyne, Chairman of Paterson Simons, elaborates, “As a group, our role was to reassure LCT that the equipment would be maintained by a team of factory-trained engineers who would be on-site 24 hours a day. We have, in fact, placed extra technicians on site to ensure that everything runs smoothly, especially in the beginning stages.”

Paterson Simons has subsequently employed and trained 13 local technicians, under the leadership of senior Paterson Simons engineers. “It was the Konecranes partnership with Paterson Simons that made their product package so attractive to us,” says Desmons.

Kamperman sums up the terminal’s requirements from Konecranes: “The demands of our customers and the demands of our environment make us a demanding client. The success of this partnership was based on the personal approach and consistent contact, the proven reliability of the equipment and the fact that the supplier is familiar with the environment we operate in.”