New Conti harbour range caters to growing market
Current estimates place the global container trade at around 600 million teu, or 20 foot container equivalents, per annum. And if the experts’ predictions pan out, this business will grow significantly in the coming years. Continental has thus identified harbour and port users as an interesting segment and has developed a completely new product range catering to their requirements. At this week’s TOC Container Supply Chain Europe exhibition in Rotterdam, the company launched its new harbour tyre portfolio, and explained the technology it hopes will optimise end-user total cost of ownership.
“In the years until 2024, container shipment will double to 1.2 billion teu,” shares Dr. Andreas Esser, head of Continental’s Commercial Vehicles Tires business unit. “We want to grow together with the market development in the harbour segment in the future, and our answer is that we’ve created a specialised product portfolio for the harbour business. We want to support and benefit customers with great solutions that bring them benefits, and by doing so we also want to want to increase our market share in the port business.”
Development of this new, specialised portfolio began by learning about and analysing end-user needs. According to Dr. Michael Maertens, managing director of Continental Commercial Specialty Tires, the number one customer requirement is safety. Other key issues facing harbour customers are productivity pressures faced by the need to load and unload ever larger vessels in the same amount of port space, and cost competitiveness, and total cost of tyre ownership (TCO). “After fuel, the tyre spend is already the second biggest cost in port operation,” he comments.
The new portfolio includes customised tyres for all vehicle types operating in port logistics, including straddle carriers – a vehicle described by Maertens as “the most demanding vehicle in port operations and therefore the target of our development”, reach stackers, rubber tyre gantry cranes, terminal tractors and trailers, and heavy-duty forklifts. Most tyres in the range are based on something Continental calls “V.ply technology”. This is, Marten elaborates, a design that takes the best elements of cross-ply and radial technology.
“We took the stability of cross-ply and tried to bring it to the rolling resistance level of a radial tyre,” he explains. “We changed the cross-ply cord angle from ‘x’ ply to ‘v’ ply so that we have a cord angle that runs in a radial direction, so the tyre is much stiffer but still maintains stability in its sidewalls. That brings it close to radial rolling resistance while retaining the stability needed to prevent accidents. It offers the best of both worlds.” The use of ‘V.ply’ allows for the production of sidewalls three times thicker than those used in radial tyres. A V.ply casing consists of up to 20 layers of cross-ply fibre woven into three separate wire beads. As steel cord does not provide an optimal bond between the carcass construction and the rubber shell, V.ply technology uses high-resistance polymer.
The new V.ply range consists of three products – the Straddle Master for straddle carriers, ContainerMaster and DockMaster for reach stackers, heavy-duty forklifts and empty container handlers, and the CraneMaster for rubber gantry cranes, mobile harbour cranes and automated guided vehicles. Michael Martens reports that the range is currently undergoing testing in ten locations around the world. “The tests are not yet finished, but what we can say is that they are pretty close in lifetime to radial tyres,” he shares. “There is a gap, but it is less than a ten per cent magnitude.” He adds that, in terms of price positioning, Continental will adhere to its aim of offering the best total cost of ownership, and therefore “the price will be according to performance.”