Its about time we got back to containers but this time I thought a look at how they are moved by a single remarkable piece of equipment would be interesting.
In the late nineties the US Army recognised the need to take advantage of civilian containerisation and issued an operational requirements document to which Kalmar, Caterpillar and Liftking Industries responded. The contract was awarded to Kalmar in 2000 with deliveries on the first batch of 346 RT240 Rough Terrain Container Handlers being completed at the end of 2004, other orders followed and it is still in production.
The US Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) Operation Iraqi Freedom after action report provided a glowing testimonial;
Vital to the rapid resupply of divisional troops are rough terrain container hand lers (RTCH), as most of the corps and theater logistics pushes arrived on flatbed trailers with containers.
They are relatively manoeuvrable and the extendable boom, rotation and sideshift top handler allow precise placement of the container.
Developed in close co-operation with the US Army, the RTCH is designed to handle containers in extreme conditions. Based on Kalmar’s reach stacker designs, the four-wheel-drive, four-wheel-steer machines can operate in mud, sand and up to 1.8 metres of salt water.
The RTCH can pick up two 20-foot railroad shipping containers at a time, or one 40-foot container, as opposed to the inefficient “one by one” method. Containers may be stacked three units high with the RTCH and the total lifting capacity is just over 24 tonnes. It is also surf zone capable and travels from beach to barge; retrieving containers and stacking them on dry land.
The designers have also built in an ingenious system for reducing its height, by moving the operator’s cab to one side, lowering it and then sinking the boom next to the cab the total height of the container handler is less than 3metres, thus enabling transport in a C-17 aircraft but at 53.5 tonnes it is a big lift, filling the C17 with its 3.65m width, 15m length and 2.98m height in shipping configuration. This preparation for air transport can be carried out in less than 30 minutes by one person with no external assistance, and without removing or dismantling any part of the machine. The reduced height also greatly simplifies road moves, bloody clever.
Unlike most container handlers the RTCH uses a single tyre arrangement. Both axles are driven and steered; crab-steer is possible and all steering is computer controlled for precise tracking. The axles are unsprung and two-wheel drive and single-axle steer is possible for road travel.
RTCH are an integral component of the US JLOTS logistic capability and can be seen below offloading containers from a ship to a lighter (mexeflote) in the image below, it was also used in the Haiti relief operation.
A number of RTCH were obtained under an Urgent Operational requirement for Operation Telic and the National Audit Office report noted that over 9,000 containers were used;
Increasingly, the Department’s operations involve the use of International Organisation for Standardisation specified-shipping containers. Operation TELIC necessitated the use of some 9,103 such containers and exposed shortfalls in the Department’s ability to handle these containers both in the United Kingdom and in-theatre. While the Department procured an additional 20 container handling vehicles, 6 Supply Regiment highlighted thatit had only three container-handling vehicles to deal with several thousand containers
They are vital to operations.
Of course all work and no play makes jack a dull boy…