SSA Gulf Terminals, a division of SSA Marine, based in Seattle, Wash., runs marine terminals, inland ports and container yards in approximately 138 ports around the globe in seven countries.
A large part of the company’s business at the Port of Panama City, in Panama City, Fla., is based on shipping wood pellets to European markets.
Komatsu loaders play a large role in that business.
Green Circle BioEnergy, Cottondale, Fla., ships its pellets to SSA. The company, which has an annual volume production capacity of approximately 606,270 tons (550,000 t), puts the pellets into rail cars and sends them to the Port of Panama City where they are unloaded by the Port Authority through use of undercar conveyors and transports the cargo into an 85,000 sq. ft. high cube modern bulk warehouse.
The bulk warehouse at the Port of Panama City holds approximately 35,273 tons (32,000 t) of wood pellets, according to Pat Downey, general manager of operations of SSA Gulf Terminals at the Port of Panama City.
“We rely on three Komatsu WA380 machines for material loading and moving. We knew that our system needed to match up with the Port Authority’s systems and that the vessels needed to be loaded at a rate of about 1,000 tons per hour. We went through the engineering of the entire system, including the loaders to be used. Certainly, the machines had the weight loading capability, but we had to go through the scenario of what size buckets would be needed. We settled on the optional 10-yard bucket based on the weight of the product [44 lbs. per cubic foot], what kind of volume we could fit in the bucket, and how many cycles the machine could reasonably make.
“We did those projections before buying the Komatsus and honestly, we’ve hit the projections on a regular basis. Each Komatsu needs to be able to perform 53 to 54 cycles an hour, which is pretty quick. But we’ve seen them doing it. There’s often times when the warehouse is really full or over capacity and we can’t access the middle hopper, so were having to load with only two machines on the outer two hoppers and we see our operators doing as much as 65 to 68 cycles per hour per machine and moving a total material volume of approximately 850 metric tons per hour.”
All three of the machines are now two years old, and these are the first Komatsus put into service at this location.
“We probably have a total of 70 pieces of rolling stock at the Panama City operation. These Komatsus rolled right into the fleet very well and we put them through our regular preventative maintenance system with regular oil changes and those types of things. We’ve really had no major issues to speak of with these machines. We run them in a very dusty environment with potential fire hazards, so in order to reduce that, and to keep the machines clean, about every hour and half we rotate them out of the warehouse and have them blown out. I think that’s been pretty successful. We blow out the radiators and filters, and we only had a simple issue with a machine air conditioner and we moved some filters around to compensate for where the air was being pulled in and the problem was solved. We’ve been very satisfied with these machines,” Downey said.
Shipping and handling requires SSA Gulf Terminals to keep the pellets completely dry at all times.
“The material runs about 4 percent moisture, which is a very dry pellet, and requires us to put a priority on keeping moisture out. The enclosed rail cars are unloaded at a covered pit. The conveyors, both above and below ground are covered. The pellets are covered while they are going into the warehouse. Once in the warehouse, they are unloaded and stacked. When we go to load the vessel [ship], we use our 380 Komatsus with a 10 yard bucket to take the pellets from flat storage to feed three large hoppers, to the tune of about 1,000 metric tons an hour. That’s about 350 metric tons per hopper or so,” Downey explained.
Downey is just as satisfied with his Tractor and Equipment Company salesman, Chuck Tibbets.
“We talked with some other contractors in the area that we knew were running Komatsus, as well as Berg Pipe, which is one of our vendors here at the port who run some big Komatsus, and everyone said they were very happy with Tractor & Equipment and Komatsu machines. Chuck does a good job. When we’ve had just a couple small issues, his staff has been right out and has gotten us up and going. When we work a ship, it’s important to be running at 100 percent. That vessel can cost anywhere from $35,000 to $50,000 a day to sit and wait for loading. So if we have delays or breakdowns, it doesn’t go over well with our customer. We need immediate service when we request it and get up and running. He’s [Chuck Tibbets] been very responsive the couple times we’ve needed him. We have no time for down time,” Downey said. CEG
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