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Knowing the ropes: Queensland

Published by
World Coal,

Bill Gommers

A major coal export facility in Queensland, Australia, was interested in understanding how the Viper WRL system worked, the benefits it could provide and if it could be applied to the facility's specific requirements to lubricate luffing ropes on a number of large shiploaders at the facility.

This particular port operates 24/7, 365 days a year, loading up to 65 million t of coal from Queenland’s Bowen Basin into large vessels for export across the world.

Each of the three shiploaders is a critical component of the port facility, with any downtime – planned or unplanned – a major issue for the operation of the site. Maintenance staff are focused on improving the overall reliability of the plant with best-practice lubrication a key component of their plan.

As with many sites where wire ropes are critical assets, lubrication is part of the routine maintenance regime but this is usually completed in a haphazard method – typically via manual lubrication with either gloved hands wiping lubricant on or possibly through the use of brushes.

Neither method is effective, with a large volume of the applied lubricant often falling off, parts of the rope not being coated with lubricant at all and virtually no penetration into the internal wires due to the lack of pressure used.

The manual lubrication process is also risky with broken wire strands potentially causing serious injury to the maintenance staff involved in the process.All of these issues led the port authority maintenance team to look for alternative methods, with the Viper WRL package selected as the most likely option to provide the end result that the site was looking to achieve.

Before using the Viper WRL package, the luffing rope lubrication process on the shiploaders involved:

– Time frame:

  • Two people x 6 hr every three months per shiploaders.
  • Approximately 144 hr/yr for three shiploaders.

– Estimated cost:

  • US$720 per shiploaders, four times per year = US$2880/yr.
  • Three shiploaders in total = US$8640/yr for labour.

– Product: used an oil, which was manually brushed and sprayed onto the rope. The process was extremely messy with potential contamination risk to the surrounding marine environment.

Having taken the decision to use the Viper Mid MKII WRL system to lubricate the ropes, the maintenance team, with the assistance of Lubrication Engineers’ staff, set up a Viper Mid MKII on the first of the two luffing ropes.

The Viper Mid was secured in place using the supplied retaining straps to a slide way that allowed lateral movement of the Viper collar in line with the rope as it moved across the winch drum.

As with many rope lubrication processes, the old lubricant and associated environmental contamination was stuck to the rope, which needed to be removed before the next lubrication cycle. A Viper Rope Cleaner, matched to the specific rope, was installed before the Viper collar, which effectively cleaned the rope before it was lubricated.

The lubrication process was completed on the first rope, with the Viper Mid then moved over to the second rope and the process repeated.

With the completion of the first shiploaders, the port authority maintenance team reviewed the process, with the following outcome:

– Time frame:

  • Two people x 2 hr per shiploaders, every eight to nine months per shiploaders.
  • Approximately 18 hr/yr for three shiploaders.

– Estimated cost:

  • US$240 per shiploaders 1.5 times per year = US$360/yr.
  • Three shiploaders in total = US$1080/yr.

The above time savings and associated process improvements have led to the customer acknowledging the following improvement:

  • Major saving in equipment downtime.
  • Much less mess and waste.
  • Safer for the workers.
  • Safer for the environment.
  • Annual cost saving of US$7560/yr.

Use of the Viper Wire Rope Lubricator at this coal export terminal has helped the maintenance teams to reduce the time spent lubricating shiploaders wire ropes by 120 hr/yr (ten fewer hours of lubrication per month) – representing a massive 83% reduction in lubrication time.

Edited by Harleigh Hobbs. This article first appeared in the December issue of World Coal.

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