On 29th May, 2023 the day at Kandla Container Terminal started out like any other normal day as forecasted by the metrological department and port authority. The terminal had the SSL Bharat at berth number 12 with quay cranes 103, 104 and 105 in operation. Quay crane 101 was idle and secured with gantry brakes, and crane 102 was going through preventive maintenance with wheel chocks properly in place in accordance with standard operating procedures (SOP). At 1455 hours an unexpected and intense five-minute storm with rain and a cyclone-level wind of 40 meters per second struck Kandla port. The force stirred up coal dust, engulfing the area in complete darkness and zero visibility. This put a brake on all operations and maintenance activities, and the terminal team moved to safety within building areas.

As winds picked up speed, crane 102 began moving involuntarily. Crane operator Sandeep Singh and technical maintenance personnel, Mahima Singh, who were on standby at the quay crane checker cabin, attempted to halt the movement of the crane by adding more wedges to the wheel in a valiant attempt to protect the company's property. However, as the crane began gaining momentum, it surpassed the wheel stopper, eventually colliding with quay crane 105 which was deployed at berth 12. The impact of the collision resulted in the derailment of crane 102 and damages to crane 105.

Swift response plan and next steps

To begin with, the team present at site activated the emergency response plan (ERP) and tallied the headcount with the day’s reporting strength, and gate entry sheet. After ensuring the safety of everyone, the team began taking stock of the situation and prioritising work. They first took into account how they would complete the operation of SSL Bharat, and ready it to sail at the next tide. One of the dependencies was the health of the quay cranes.

After taking stock of the damages, they put together a plan of action to reinstate the two affected cranes. This however was not an easy task – crane 105 due to the collision had damaged wheel brakes, gantry motors, gearbox and gantry buffers. The derailed crane 102 too had damaged gantry motors, gantry buffers, cable reel diverters and spreader twist locks since the spreader was grounded.

The team powered both cranes, upon finding out that the high tension cables were in good shape. Crane 5’s damaged motors were removed, and realigned with the remaining healthy motors and brakes. It was then deployed manually to help place the hatch covers onboard the SSL Bharat. Crane 2’s booms were lifted to enable the ship to sail as per schedule.

The major challenge though was to somehow get the derailed crane back on track. Unfortunately, response and support from the crane manufacturer and other specialised agencies would mean a waiting period of a precious 72 hours or more. This is when the team decided to carry out the task on their own, in consultation with the terminal’s COO and Regional Engineering head. After a team of engineers and support staff were mobilised from various locations, and checking with at least a dozen service providers for hydraulic jacks and power packs, the rerailing of the quay crane began less than 24 hours after the incident took place, and was completed on 31st May at 9 PM.

Setting sails

When the cyclone hit, 177 containers onboard the SSL Bharat were yet to be handled. Due to the commendable teamwork between the operations and engineering departments, vessel operations resumed using quay cranes 103 and 104. Six hatch covers each weighing 35 ton were placed on the vessel with the help of quay crane 5, under the supervision of the operations team.

Record setting

On the same evening of 31st May, two other vessels TCI Anand and Jairan berthed at the terminal - number 11 and 12 respectively, where operations on both vessels were conducted as usual. Shortly after, with no delays to the arriving vessels, the terminal achieved some important milestones on 4th June with the vessel, SCI Mumbai

  • All 5 quay cranes were deployed together for the first time on a single vessel.
  • The terminal achieved the highest ever berth productivity of 100.07 moves per hour
  • The J M Baxi team handled 2,838 TEU within 26 hours

In spite of multiple challenges, the terminal achieved a remarkable turnaround. That aside, the incident also showcased the Kandla Container team’s commitment to excellence and dedication to its customers.