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Wanted: a fail-safe plan

August 12, 2015

When Global Container Terminals (GCT) set out to transform its container terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey, into a technologically advanced facility, the project proved to be a demanding one for everyone involved.
“Our expectations were very high,” says Rich Ceci, Vice President of IT at GCT USA, as he recalls the complex and exacting process of planning and carrying out the expansion of GCT’s expanded terminal in Bayonne, NJ, USA.  Now complete, the massive project is a new semi-automated container terminal which is perhaps the most advanced facility of its kind on the continent.

“It was a major opportunity for us, and we had a significant investment,” explains Ceci.  “It was important for us to have a system that was very safe and reliable, and working as per plan. It had to be on time, then it had to work properly and meet projected reliability and functional capabilities.”

Of that investment, the single most valuable line item consisted of 20 Automated Stacking Cranes (ASCs) that GCT ordered from Konecranes. To meet the grueling schedule for the expansion, the cranes had to be assembled at the same time that construction was taking place.

“Trying to keep the project on schedule, and coordinating the delivery of equipment from suppliers so that it would all come on time was a very challenging task,” emphasizes Ceci.

The new facilities would expand the existing GCT Bayonne container terminal, which continued to operate full-time and at peak volume throughout the construction period. To complicate matters, Hurricane Sandy hit New York in the middle of the project. GCT depended on Konecranes to come up with a plan for the  deliveries of the ASCs to take place on time and without any hitches.

Previously, Konecranes had delivered ASC cranes to APM Terminal in Virginia, a project which key members of GCT Bayonne’s expansion team had also worked on. The state-of-the-art container terminal in Portsmouth had established a new benchmark in the container handling industry, setting new performance standards and methods of operation.

“The fact that we had worked together in the past meant that we had confidence in the people and in Konecranes as a company.  We knew that they would get the job done on schedule. Instead of spending the time that we normally would on this line item we could devote our attention to other things in the project. Another big factor was the capability of the equipment,” says Ceci.

For Teppo Simola, Project Manager at Konecranes, the most critical aspect of meeting the tight schedule was the development of a new approach that would allow Konecranes to deliver the cranes to GCT Bayonne in a near-finished state.

“The challenge was the method creation – how the hinged leg could be moved easily to the center position, how the semi-erected ASCs could be transported from the assembly site to the vessel, and how the ASCs could be loaded onto and off of the vessel. We needed to create a whole new delivery method for accomplishing all of these steps,” Simola explains.

Meticulous planning and testing

After gathering ideas from experts within Konecranes, as well as consulting with shipping companies, the whole delivery concept was roughly defined. The project team and relevant stakeholders then reviewed it repeatedly until any remaining questions were answered and the method was clear for all concerned.

Simola describes the discussions with the GCT Bayonne expansion team as open and easy. “We had extensive discussions with the company about the technology, delivery method and site-related works. Those were very fruitful for both parties,” he recalls. “At one point GCT Bayonne’s project manager mentioned that we were giving him the royal treatment. Personally I feel that this is the best feedback we could get about our customer service.”

Meanwhile, many of the crane components were manufactured and pre-assembled at Konecranes sites in Europe. The sub-assemblies were then delivered to the crane erection site in Gdynia, Poland, where all 20 ASC cranes were pre-assembled, erected and finalized, then commissioned and tested.

After testing, the hinged leg of each ASC was moved to the center position of the crane in order to save space on vessel’s deck during shipping. The twenty cranes then made their way by sea in batches of five to the final site in Bayonne.

The first ASCs came off the ship on October 17, 2013, and according to Jussi Suhonen, Konecranes’ Sales Director for Port Cranes, Region Americas, the delivery could not have been more smoothly orchestrated. In his words, “It was conducted like a symphony.”

Ceci concurs, recalling the event with enthusiasm: “It was amazing! It was an event. Everyone came to watch the cranes discharge off the ship. It was very impressive to see them get unloaded and moved into position.”

Watch GCT Bayonne’s video of the unloading process. 

Following the semi-erected ASCs’ arrival at GCT Bayonne, they were unloaded from the vessel and transported to their respective rails at the terminal. There, their hinged legs were moved back to their correct positions and the final commissioning and testing was performed.

“Some mechanical work had to be done at the final site, but it was dramatically less than we would normally have had to do. The time spent at the final site is always very expensive, not only for us and but also for the client. By reducing this by several weeks we gave GCT exactly what they were looking for,” asserts Simola.  “To my understanding, this was the first ASC delivery ever to be completed using this method.”


Mirko Nowak, Site Manager for Konecranes, was at the center of the action during the delivery. He sums up what made this last stage a success: “Realistic and detailed site planning for all of the parties involved. Namely, the site team undertaking final assembly, and the startup and testing team working together with the Customer Project teams from GCT Bayonne who did the yard installation, civil work and automatic system. There was close communication and coordination throughout.”

GCT Bayonne today

After the expansion was completed, GCT Bayonne handled its first vessel using the ASCs in July 2014. By October, the facility reached an impressive level of productivity of more than 100 berth moves per hour. Performance has only continued to improve every month since the launch a year ago.

“The Konecranes equipment have done very well, and we are very pleased with the company and the people that make it up,” commented Ceci recently. He also referred to a key advantage brought by the new ASCs:

“Safety at GCT is the focal point of our core values. In 2014 our safety rate improved by over 60%, putting us among the best terminals in the world relative to safe operation. And what’s amazing is that it is even better this year.  We recently won the safety award for the Port of New York and New Jersey. There is no doubt that the Konecranes equipment plays a large role in that success.”


Text: Patricia Ongpin Steffa

Photos: Nick Souza

Three facts

  1. GCT Bayonne’s close proximity to the New York and New Jersey harbor entrance reduces transit times by two hours each way.
  2. The facility can handle the largest vessels currently transiting through the Panama and Suez Canals. 
  3. With a total land area of 68 hectares and an 823-meter contiguous berth,  it has no air or water draft restrictions.