One of the main points on the agenda of the European Union is to sustain the development of transport technologies to achieve a sustainable modal shift from road to railways and water-borne routes including inland navigation and short sea shipping. Both innovative vehicle/vessel concepts and their effective integration in multi-modal door-to-door transportation chains are encouraged. The objective is to remove congestion from road infrastructure in Europe, to improve the mobility of travellers and goods and to promote a safe and clean transportation system for Europe. Research and policy measures for road freight would seek to limit growth from 50 % to 38% by 2010. Targets for rail include tripling freight and doubling passenger market share by 2020.
As far as the interface water-land is concerned, and in particular in the field of port cranes manufacturing, due to highly detailed bids from buyers and severe price competition, manufacturers usually neglect risks for research & innovations. Current anti-sway devices are mainly based on several physical/electrical principles (combining sensors/actuators to re-balance sway and damp oscillations). Their performance rates and cost/benefit ratios are not satisfactory, and many crane operators declare to work switching off the antisway. The absence of efficient and cost effective antisway systems refrained introduction of remote crane control, as many past experiences have shown worldwide. SECURCRANE addressed 2 specific problems, distinct but deeply interconnected, which affect crane operator's behaviour (thus, productivity & pay out of container cranes):
- the stressifull working conditions of crane operators due to both physical stress (shocks, vibrations, accelerations due to cabin position suspended to trolley and cabin constrained movement along crane boom), and psychological stress (sway of spreader/container and time needed to engage corner casting holes with spreader twistlocks or into the 'cones', which considerably frustrate drivers while average handling time per movement increases);
- the potential damages caused to intermodal units (and/or goods inside them), relevant causes of resource-burning legal actions and, often, financial disbursements (insurance costs or direct refunding to clients).
The project also took into consideration the social aspects of innovation, involving crane drivers since start and focussing on re-qualification of their future job position after remote crane cabin adoption.
SECURCRANE 2 objectives were reached by realising, installing and testing on a port crane in Le Havre the Remote Control (RCM), Anti-Sway (ASM), and Cargo Monitoring (CMM) Modules prototypes. Furthermore, SECURCRANE builds wide consensus within crane drivers' community, inviting them to trials where they may touch with their hands the innovation in practice, not in theory. RCM originates from past expertise developed in defence field applications now transferred into this civil application subject to different constraints, environment, needs.
Imagery system is innovative too, based on a patented system promising to overcome negative aspects of past 3D imagery systems. ASM originates from successful past experience in other science domains (mostly cognitive sciences & artificial intelligence devices design). HW simplicity, fast response to external inputs, positive past applications of the same know-how, and reduced HW costs promise efficiency coupled with very interesting cost/benefit ratio. CMM raises commercial attractiveness of SECURCRANE system reducing insurance costs & providing added-value services to Terminal Operators. CMM acquires many container images performing functions like container identification (to avoid misoperations), extraction of geometric features (early detection of damages avoiding refunding Clients for damages made outside terminal premises), and other functions. CMM adopts technologies able to limit optic/geometric distortion and environmental/light adverse condition, while keeping HW costs low.
Excluding Management, the project was organised in five work packages:
WP 1 -User needs vision, Functional Requirements & Architecture
User needs vision (through interviews, questionnaires & advisory of key field experts/end user), was 'translated' into proper functional requirements to draw up the SECURCRANE system architecture.
WP 2 - Design, development & tests
Design and development of modules run separately because their applications were logically "installed" in different allocations on crane controls.
WP 3 - Integration, Testing and Validation
Modules were integrated & tested to verify functionalities & performances of each module as well as of global system. Final results have been validated by the End User and other potential users.
WP 4 - Evaluation & Assessment
Identification of impacts (notably socio-economic) of introduction of SECURCRANE's technologies and associated organisational concepts, and 'road map' for implementation.
WP 5 - Dissemination and Workshops
Major instruments have been SECURCRANE INTEREST OPERATORS CLUB (SIOC), distribution of brochures, update of project web page, and validation workshops.
The major result is that the first prototype of SECURCRANE system was installed on a port crane in Le Havre and proved being able to allow the remote control of the crane by means of CCTV 3D images, to practically eliminate the effects of the sway when the driver puts the control joystick to idle, and to monitor the handled cargo extracting and storing useful information.
The project reached its successful end at the end of September 2009. This research challenge was won, and it is expected that in the next years, first positive applications could involve the port cranes field where safer working conditions and more efficient drivers performance may be reached. Further application fields, in a medium term future, may benefit from the achievements of this research, such as the civil construction industry, just to mention the widest. The partnership included the End-User 'Grand Port Maritime du Havre', both Research Bodies, such as ENEA, and Commercial Firms such as ECA, BERTOLOTTI and SCIROIDEA, reasonably granting the application of the research outputs into exploitable and marketable products.