I get asked about container lifting solutions every day and which one is most suitable- to be honest it really depends on the application (Yes durrrr I know your lifting containers) but it does depend on how you wish to do it and what equipment and budget you have in mind.
For sure you can lift containers using a crane but its about what is between the container and crane that really matters to avoid damage to the load or improper rigging technique. Containers should be carefully lifted without tilting or tipping the load, this helps when also laying them down on the deck of a ship.
Types of container lifting solutions on todays market are:
Full container lifting frames- these are frames that are the same size as the container if you were looking down on it, these usually feature container lugs on all 4 lifting points which connect with the container a lock in to place at the command from the operator (or even automatically on more advanced equipment). By far the most common solution and there is only really need for one lifting frame per crane/hoist. Mostly used in dockside transport where the sides of containers cannot be accessed once they are stacked on a boat, creating the need for a ‘picking’ technique.
Container Lifting Lugs and Chain Slings- Very commonly used in small ports or in applications where the person rigging the crane can easily access the locking points for the lugs. There are two types of lugs, side lifting and top lifting- side lifting can only be used if there is clear access to the bottom sides of the containers where as top lifting lugs can be used in applications like loading and unloading from vessels alike the frame- lots cheaper however there is more work involved in attaching and removing the lugs before and after transport.
Mobile container handlers which look similar to a large forklift with a long reach container frame are often the choice for large ports where containers have to be transported on land to areas where cranes cannot reach. These tractor like machines are very powerful and can lift up to 45000kg which covers most container loads.
Inspection of any load rated Lifting Equipment is vital and should be undertaken between every 3-12 months depending upon the intensity of usage. Failure to inspect and certify lifting gear regularly by a qualified LOLER inspection body can result in your company not being covered by insurance in the event that the item involved was neglected from an inspection.
Should the unspeakable happen, the company involved may be sued or fined heavily, this can also negatively impact on the persons involved in organising the inspections and maintenance.
Inspection is very important as a qualified engineer that has competent inspection skills will easily identify any abnormalities very quickly and efficiently while understanding the implications that the abnormality can cause. Much like a doctor for lifting gear the inspector can assess the required issue and recommend the steps to take in order to correct the problem, this may be just a minor replacement part such as a safety catch or something more complex that would require the company the scrap the item and replace it if the cost of repair is close to or outweighs a new item. Intense usage demands reliable products and requires more frequent inspection and replacement of spare parts or a total new item.
Machine Skates or sometimes referred to as Load Moving Skates are very easy to operate, they work by distributing the weight of the load up to 100 Tonnes over the surface of the skate, underneath the skates surface there are specially engineered castors or ball bearings that allow the skate to move and with some models, turn.
Most people use Toe Jacks or a Roller Crow Bar to lift the load or machine enough to slide a skate into place. Once the skate is in place the Jack or Crow Bar is lowered in order to release the load on to the skate for ease of transport.
Most loads require three skates, two rear skates that connect via a bar to ensure they remain in line with each other and one front steerable skate which includes special steerable wheels to enable the load to travel around corners and be more manoeuvrable.
Machine Skates are used in a variety of other load moving applications such as for loading containers, machine movers can also move pallets and pallet boxes that are too heavy for standard pallet trucks!
Hand operated or electric Pallet Trucks are perfect affordable handling solutions designed to make life easier by enabling you to lift and shift palletised loads up to 5 Tonnes.
Hand Pallet Trucks are operated by a steering lever that incorporates a release handle, the lever if pumped raises the truck forks in order to lift the load, pulling on the release handle slowly lowers the load. The truck is designed to be driven under a pallet and operated as above, the pallet can easily be pushed or pulled by hand once raised off the ground.
Manual trucks are ideal for transporting pallets around warehouses and for unloading loads from lorries with tail lifts. Before the new 2013 anti-dumping laws that raised taxes on Pallet Trucks up to almost 50% this type of truck could be considered disposable starting at prices little over £100 online, sadly this is no longer the case.
Electric Motorised Pallet Trucks are operated with ease featuring electrically assisted travel and steering operated from a handle similar to a hand pallet truck. These are often used to transport heavier loads or used when operation is intense so it becomes important to make things easier for workers as this often makes them more productive in the warehouse. Electric models are battery operated with a long battery life, most people use the trucks in the day and charge them overnight.
When used outside in the British summer (and obviously winter) pallet trucks can start to rust, for that there are a variety of corrosion resistant galvanised pallet trucks and for the food industry; Stainless Steel models are available as food can often be heavy to transport in bulk, supermarkets often used pallet trucks to unload pallets of meat and vegetables to save time and make life easier! A small addition goes a long way.