The bag ship loader, at one time, was one of the most common ways ships were loaded. Although the development and adoption of other technologies means they are not quite as common as they once were, they remain essential for quaysides and docks.

What is the bag ship loader system?

The bag loader’s heyday was in the 1970s. Although shipping evolved dramatically over the 20th century, at this stage it was common practice for containers and ships not to be closed. This would mean that cargo could be exposed to the elements, and, in some cases, some loss and damage was inevitable as the voyage encountered winds or rain.

The use of bags provided not just a solution to this, but also helped at the destination, both with unloading, which could even be managed manually by stevedores, but also with onward shipping and even final sale to the consumer.

The bag ship loader equipment was developed to help increase the efficiency of loading bags onto ships. The mechanism is remarkably simple. Using gravity, in this ship loading system, bags are fed down a chute, which directs them. This chute can be maneuvered in place with a great degree of flexibility. In practice, it means that the manual handling of bags is minimized, with them delivered in place for shipping.

Application scope of bag ship loading

Today, containers carry most of the world’s cargo. Their standardization has made them ubiquitous, largely because there are few docks that are not equipped to handle them. However, not all cargoes are suitable for containers. The most obviously examples are bulk cargoes, where containers would make it unnecessarily complex for the ship loader.

This, however, is not suitable for some other cargoes, like cements, sugar, fertilizer, and plastics, where the risk of spillage and spoilage is high. In these examples, the use of bags makes sense for the transporter, the client, and even the end customer, by minimizing loss and contamination.

Quays that handle this sort of cargo, therefore, are likely to need a bag ship loader. These ship loading systems can be adaptable for individual quaysides. They are often installed as stationary systems, but some quays opt for rails, allowing bag cargo loading to be deployed flexibly across several docking points, or, if necessary, for the loader to be removed from the immediate quayside.

The loader simply requires sufficient space to ensure the supply of bags. These are delivered to the ship using gravity. This, therefore, means that the bags have to enter the delivery chute at height. This is usually accomplished using a conveyor system in the boom arm, with another from the quayside.

However, if there is sufficient space and support, the ship loading system is suitable for almost any environment. They have been successfully deployed, and used, in challenging and demanding climates.

Advantages of using bag ship loader equipment

A bag ship loader can offer a range of benefits for a shipping business. One of the core benefits comes from not using containers.

Although containers have transformed the shipping industry, they are not without their disadvantages. Aside from the cost of the container, loading and unloading them can be complicated for some cargo types. Maintenance increases these costs further still; some cargoes mean that post-shipping cleaning is required. And, while hardy and durable, containers are not light, and create a shipping cost of their own.

In contrast, using a ship loader for bags can help reduce costs. There is no need for cleaning, since the cargo is retained inside the bags, and the light bags add little to the shipping overheads. However, it’s in the ease and reliability of loading that bag cargo loading shows its real advantages.

The design of the loader helps ensure the integrity of the goods. Using a helical or cascade chute helps to reduce the risk of damage to cargo. This can reduce the cost of shipping insurance, as well as minimizing the wastage costs that have to be included in other shipping methods.

It also does this without reducing the loading speed. Although individual bags are relatively light — they can be moved by personnel working on the quayside — the constant flow of them means that very high rates of loading can be achieved, some systems offer up to 3,500 tons per hour, in many cases faster than bulk loading.

Perhaps most surprisingly, these speeds can be attained with a minimal crew. It is possible to operate a bag ship loader with as few as three people. One operating the controls while the remaining crew help to guide the bags.

Designed to deliver bags exactly where needed for shipping, the ship loading head minimizes the physical labor required in shifting or turning bags. Even with this small crew, loading capacities can reach up to 4,000 bags an hour.

How to maintain a ship loading system?

A further advantage is that, unlike other ship loaders, it offers a low-maintenance design.

Gravity is used to feed the bags, meaning there is no powered or mechanical element in the descending chute. The design of the spiral chute helps to control the speed of the bags, which also helps to manage natural wear and tear. However, for more abrasive cargoes, for example cement, the chute can be lined to extend its life.

The design means that the mechanical parts, for example the boom arm and conveyor, are readily accessible and because they feature common quayside technologies, they usually present few maintenance issues.

A bag ship loader equipment is a less common feature of modern quaysides than it once was, but it still plays a key role for those quays and businesses that transport large volumes of bagged cargo. For those businesses, the speed and ease with which ships can be loaded, using a minimal crew, makes them an invaluable asset.

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