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AAL has announced the successful deployment for the first time in Australia of multi-lift ‘vacuum pad’ units, used in the discharge of pipes with its partner Qube. The cargo, which comprised 24,996 steel coated pipes units (18m in length each and weighing a total of 13,386t), was loaded in Baoshan China and discharged in Darwin, via AAL’s global tramp and chartering service and its S-Class multipurpose heavy lift vessel, the AAL Bangkok (19,000dwt)

This was the first time that this lifting technology, which uses multiple vacuum pads to attach and lift the pipes, has been deployed in an Australian port. The cargo was delivered by AAL to Darwin for the Bao Australia pipeline, for which Qube has been contracted for cargo discharge and landside operations for the Tanami Gas Pipeline Project.

Traditionally, pipeline handling operations are handled by ‘hooking up’ the pipe during vessel discharge. Landside activity has also typically harnessed crane and pipe grapling hooks for handling. However AAL and Qube, Australia’s largest integrated provider of import and export logistics services, deployed the use of these innovative multi-lift vacuum units for the entire discharge operation in Darwin.

Nicola Pacifico commented, ‘The multi-lift vacuum units were successfully commissioned and operational throughout the operation, while maintaining zero lost time injuries (LTI) and reducing operational safety risks, by eliminating the use of hooks. Data analysed before, during, and after the operation demonstrated increased productivity, improved risk mitigation and ultimately cost savings that could be passed down to our customers. The use of this technology also added to the quality of the operation, thanks to the improved and less abrasive handling which protected the integrity of the pipeline coating.

Namir Khanbabi added, “At AAL, we’ve always been keen to explore new innovations that can generate greater efficiency and productivity in our operations, as well as partnering with likeminded partners, such as Qube, who share our commitment to driving up safety and quality standards. Qube have consistently showcased operational excellence, and this initiative, in partnership with AAL’s engineering teams, crews and vessels, has demonstrated why we always go the extra mile to deliver service excellence and optimised cost savings for our shippers.”

In conclusion Dean Wells, General Commercial Manager at Qube, said, “We strive to continuously implement innovative practices, from stevedoring operations to haulage to remote locations, for our customers in the pipeline industry. We have long been seeking a better solution for pipeline handling that would improve productivity, quality and safety, compared to the traditional use of hooks. Never before seen in Australia, this multi-lift vacuum technology delivers a major step-change in pipeline handling operations and Qube is looking forward to partnering with AAL on many more pipeline projects into the future.”

Source: AAL