Side lifter: The ultimate wharf tool

From the December 2011 issue.

It is safe to say that containers are the lingua franca of world trade. They carry almost every good imaginable and can be moved seamlessly between a ship’s cargo hold, a trailer’s transport platform or a train wagon. But, finding a solution to manage the transshipment can be a tough task.

A classic shipping container can come in various standard sizes – 20 foot (6.09 m), 40 foot (12.18 m), 45 foot (13.7 m), 48 foot (14.6 m), and 53 foot (16.15 m) – and vary in height from 8 to 9.5 feet (include metres). But, it is the standardised width of eight feet that has made the humble box become the world’s ultimate tool to load, transport and unload freight.

Ironically, handling the most ordinary freight task on the planet has led to the creation of the most advanced transport solution in the wharf haulage sector – the side-lifter. This is a semi-trailer equipped with a specially designed set of cranes and retractable stabilising legs that is able to lift and transport shipping containers of various types, sizes and weights.

Using a side-lifter – also called Self Loading Trailer (SLT) – a single person can load and unload a container in minutes, without additional equipment or personnel. This can deliver a significant cost advantage when compared with traditional equipment, such as rubber-tyred gantry cranes, reachstackers or straddle carriers. Side-lifter cranes can also be mounted on a truck deck for handling 20-foot containers and many are engineered to stack two containers on top of each other.

Often viewed as a niche product, the side-lifter technology has proven to be a viable alternative to mainstream equipment – and as international shipping of containerised commodities is indispensable for global trading firms, it is likely to gain more ground in the container haulage and wharf market.

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