Common Types of Cargo Handling Equipment (CHE) in Ports

The majority of the world’s cargo is transported in a ship at some point, with an estimated 80% of all goods being transported by sea. A majority of these goods are packaged into steel shipping containers of a standardized size and carried by container ships. In 2020, seaborne containerized cargo amounted to around 1.85 billion tons. These ships load and unload at ports using a variety of specialized equipment. In this post, we will go over some of the Cargo Handling Equipment (CHE) commonly used at ports.

Container Cranes

Container cranes are used to load and unload shipping containers from container ships. Their large booms reach over the ship, while the operator controls from a cabin directly adjacent to the trolley. The cabin and trolley can be repositioned along the length of the boom in order to more easily pick up containers. The operator can then lower a spreader onto the top of the container, which connects to the container using twist locks. This allows the crane to move containers from the dock to the ship, or from the ship to the dock.

Also called ship-to-shore (STS) cranes, STS gantry cranes, harbor cranes, or container-handling gantry cranes, these cranes sit on steel wheels on rails. This allows them to move along the dock in order to align with the ship they are currently loading or unloading. Large ships may have multiple container cranes working on them simultaneously.


Straddle Carriers

Straddle carriers, or straddle trucks, are capable of moving containers around the dock by carrying them underneath, rather than on top. The operator sits on top, perpendicular to the direction of travel, in order to offer better visibility of the container. A spreader is lowered on top of the container and secures via twist locks. Straddles can stack containers up to three high for storage and drive over these stacks while carrying another container. Their height and build also allow them to position themselves directly over trucks for loading.


Reach Stackers

Reach stackers use spreaders attached to a telescopic boom in order to move and stack loaded containers. They are faster and more flexible than forklifts, and capable of stacking containers up to three rows deep and five containers high. Reach stackers are also used to place containers directly onto trains or trucks.


Empty and Loaded Container Handlers

Empty container handlers are used to transport and stack empty containers in the yard. They consist of a long, telescoping, vertical arm and an attachment used to grab the containers from their longest side and reposition them. Empty container handlers have a lifting capacity of around 10 tons, making them unsuitable for transporting full containers. While they cannot lift as much weight, they can stack containers higher. They are also called side loaders, side picks, and side handlers.

Loaded container handlers are unable to stack containers as high as empty container handlers, but have a much higher lift capacity at around 45 tons. They make use of an overhead attachment on a straight mast in order to lift and stack heavy containers. They are also called top loaders, top picks, top lifts, and top handlers.


Terminal Tractors

Terminal tractors are semi-tractors intended for short distance use. They are used to transport containers on trailers within a cargo yard, warehouse facility, or intermodal facility. Terminal tractors are designed for easy trailer loading and unloading. They have a shorter wheelbase and a tighter turning radius than traditional heavy duty trucks, which allows them to more easily navigate around yards. Terminal tractors are also referred to as shunt trucks, spotter trucks, spotting tractors, utility tractor rigs (UTRs), yard trucks, yard tractors, yard shifters, yard birds, yard dogs, yard goats, yard horses, yard jockeys, hostlers, and mules.


Cargo Handling Equipment Parts at Iron Wing Sales

At Iron Wing Sales, we carry a large inventory of genuine OEM parts to help you avoid downtime. We carry hard-to-find parts from top manufacturers like Cargotec, Kalmar, Bromma, Ottawa Terminal Tractor, and more. Our inventory is in-stock and ready-ship, so as soon as your order is placed we will work on getting it shipped out.  Simply browse by category, or you can use our search function to sort by description, part number, or manufacturer. We also offer free shipping on qualifying orders >$100. Additional inquiries, contact us by email: or by phone:(216) 912-9089

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