Shiploader cabin isolation mechanism for Newcastle Coal export terminal, Australia

Aurecon uses 3D printing to integrate safety elements into export terminal equipment

The Newcastle Coal export terminal is an important part of Australia's coal supply chain as it generates economic benefits for the New South Wales Hunter Region and the rest of the State. The facilities include rail, coal storage, shiploading and associated infrastructure.

The shiploader operator cabins are capable of slewing around the loading chute to provide the operator with line-of-sight to the product loading, by means of a ring gear and drive pinion.

In order to safely carry out maintenance tasks on the drive, the rotatable cabin structure was secured to the shiploader boom by installing temporary slings and stays to achieve mechanical isolation of the operator’s cabin.

Newcastle Coal identified an opportunity to improve this isolation process by using a bespoke mechanism to achieve mechanical isolation of the shiploader cabin during maintenance.

Designing a bespoke solution

Aurecon worked with Newcastle Coal to design a mechanism that enables quick and secure mechanical isolation of the shiploader cabin from a single accessible location on an existing platform.

The bespoke design is an eccentrically-mounted vertical locking pin for the operator to isolate the cabin within minutes and safely from an existing walkway. As safety for cabin operators and maintenance labourers was at the core of the project, Aurecon employed its safe design process to guide the development of an innovative design solution.

Safety in design using 3D

Engaging the shiploader operators in safe design workshops throughout the design process was a key part of Aurecon’s approach. The new mechanism was to have manual operation to isolate the cabin, so it was important that the shiploader operators were active participants in the design process with their feedback, concerns and ideas incorporated in the design.

While 2D drawings are important for design and construction, they’re not visually engaging when identifying potential hazards. Consequently, Aurecon created a 3D printed prototype of the mechanism to use as a visual aid to engage with the shiploader operators and explore the design. It was also an element of fun in the workshops to establish a positive and engaging atmosphere.

The approach was well-received with workshop participants using the 3D prototype as a prompt to ask questions, suggest design improvements and discuss concerns. It allowed the operators to provide meaningful input into the design to achieve Newcastle Coal’s vision for the equipment.

One design improvement to evolve from the workshops was creating smaller, separable parts for ease of manual handling and incorporating quick-release latches in the mechanism to make manual operation easier.

Aurecon’s delivery of this project exemplifies our commitment to safety by designing a piece of equipment that is straightforward to construct and safe to operate and maintain. The mechanism was fabricated and installed successfully on-site, on time and within budget.

Resilient design for long-term sustainability

The mechanism operates in a highly-corrosive marine environment. Therefore, Aurecon used marine grade materials, protective treatment and an open, self-draining design to minimise corrosion and improve the longevity of the equipment.

On traditional bearings, lubricants typically need to be reapplied frequently to avoid seizing and there’s risks of slip hazards due to spillage on walkways and structures. Aurecon’s design included maintenance-free polymer bearings that negate the need for grease and lubricants.

One of the engineering challenges was to create an open, self-draining design with no crevices or corners that could allow water or dirt to accumulate. The final design uses round sections with no gussets or upturned edges and this, in turn, reduces the regularity of wash downs or cleaning.

In the shiploader cabin isolation mechanism, Aurecon has created a safety-centred product with a range of subtle design features that improves usability and reduces manual handling requirements for Newcastle Coal employees.

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