S. Korea showcases cost-cutting mobile harbor | Inquirer Technology

S. Korea showcases cost-cutting mobile harbor

/ 10:52 PM June 29, 2011

BUSAN – South Korean researchers Wednesday showcased an invention which they claim could transform the shipping industry — a harbor which goes out to a ship.

The Mobile Harbor, a giant barge with a shallow draught and a stabilised crane, was put through its paces off the southern port of Busan as journalists and diplomats looked on.

The harbor, designed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), is intended to unload big container ships in open waters to eliminate costly delays which shippers face to use crowded ports.


Because it only needs a limited depth of water the harbor does not have to unload at a regular container dock. It can ferry containers closer to their final destination, reducing the cost and pollution of road transport.


The mobile harbor can also be used for salvage and rescue operations at sea, for building and maintaining offshore plants and for supplying ships moored in deep waters, KAIST said.

“Today’s demonstration of the Mobile Harbor’s core technologies will really change the face of our maritime transportation system,” said Kwak Byung-Man, director of KAIST’s Mobile Harbor Centre.

“It will be able to deliver more goods to global markets and consumers via sea routes, not necessarily building more ports or expanding existing harbours.”

The new system will also significantly cut the high cost of overland cargo transport and reduce carbon emissions, he added.

KAIST said the project, initiated in 2009, was a result of “thinking outside the box” — why could a harbor not sail to a ship, instead of vice versa?

But this was easier said than done.


Researchers from KAIST, companies and other local universities had to overcome daunting technical challenges in the $32 million project bankrolled by the government.

Connecting two vessels of widely different sizes in heaving seas was one problem, and stabilising the crane mounted on the mobile harbour was another, said KAIST professor Kim Kyung-Soo.

“The Mobile Harbor is a very complicated, integrated system backed by computers and sensors,” Kim told AFP.

The system also incorporates a “smart” spreader system to grab containers safely in choppy seas and a multi-stage trolley system for swing-free handling.

Kim said the system had attracted interest in Brazil, Indonesia, the Middle East and African countries that need to expand port space, and researchers from the US Navy were to attend a second demonstration scheduled next week.

KAIST says all the Mobile Harbor’s stabilising operations are computerised, and it has a unique way of linking itself to a large ship and unloading it.

It includes flexible robot arms and a crane whose computer-controlled adjustment system can compensate for the rolling of vessels in the open sea.

The robot arms, tipped with square vacuum suction pads, reach out and stick to the hull of a container ship. Cables and winches connected to the arms add further stability.

In Wednesday’s test run, a regular barge fitted with high steel plates to simulate a ship’s hull played the role of a container ship some 500 metres (1,650 feet) offshore.

The mobile harbor, 45 metres long and 15 metres wide, successfully docked with the “ship” and unloaded several containers from it.

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“This technology is very good,” said Brazilian ambassador Edmundo Fujita, who attended the demonstration. “I think the important thing is how to customise this technology to meet the needs of each customer,” he told AFP.

TOPICS: Shipping, South Korea, technology
TAGS: Shipping, South Korea, technology

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