Vacuum replaces towing ropes - Quick and secure ship mooring system

Vacuum replaces towing ropes - Quick and secure ship mooring system

For the shipping industry, time spent in the harbour is a significant cost factor. This time can be greatly reduced with a vacuum mooring system.

It can take up to one and a half hours for a large container ship to be docked and securely tied up in the wharf. This process requires a whole army of helpers, known as the ‘mooring gang'. Their work is very dangerous since long, thick ropes have to be moved between the ship and land and partially placed under great tension. In many cases, tugboats are also required to tow the giant vessels to the quay wall, making the whole exercise an extremely elaborate and expensive process. And while the mooring is in progress, no loading or unloading can take place and the paid pilot is also unable to disembark.

In an effort to make mooring simpler, quicker, cheaper and safer, the engineers of the international engineering company Cavotec devised the idea of grabbing the ship's hull with large suction cups and pulling it to the quay wall. They named this new technology MoorMaster™ and first tested it in New Zealand in 1998. Since then, the Cavotec systems have been installed at more and more harbours across the world.

Attractive force for ocean giants

The MoorMaster™ system consists of hydraulically extending vacuum suction cups mounted on the quay wall. They attach to the outer shell of the ship and immediately generate a powerful vacuum with a suction force of up to 20 metric tons. Even large freighters with a capacity of up to 450,000 metric tons (deadweight tonnage) are dragged to the quay wall and held securely. With this procedure, the time required to moor a ship can be reduced to just 30 seconds. It also eliminates laborious manoeuvring with the ship's engine or tugboat, while fuel consumption and exhaust emissions in the harbour are reduced. The unmooring process takes a mere 10 seconds.

The flexible neoprene suction cups form a secure seal on surfaces impaired by rust, weld seams or deformation. As soon as they touch the hull of the ship, the vacuum pumps immediately generate a powerful vacuum. A vacuum reserve is also in place for additional security. Throughout its time in port, the ship is held not just securely but also at the perfect distance from the quay wall. This protects both the hull of the ship and the fenders on the quay wall. The control system of the vacuum units monitors the movement of the vessel and compensates for this motion with its sophisticated hydraulics.

A single person is required to operate the MoorMasterTM and, thanks to the remote control system, this can even be the captain of the mooring ship. In addition, every one of the installed mooring systems is connected to the internet, allowing Cavotec to monitor them around the clock and immediately detect any problems that may occur.

For developing this revolutionary mooring system, Cavotec was awarded the ‘Innovation in Vacuum Busch Award' in 2015. This accolade is presented on an annual basis in recognition of outstanding innovation in the field of vacuum technology. Cavotec uses Mink claw vacuum pumps from Busch.

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