Trading routes between Scandinavia and Britain have been established for many years, but our relatively close proximity to our northern neighbours is only one reason behind the on-going success.
Thor Shipping & Transport (TST) is a leading light in the specialised integrated logistics sector, with particularly strong links to Sweden. Its strength in responding quickly and efficiently is matched by the power and productivity of by equipment designed to lift huge loads.
At their busy Hull terminal, containers full of timber, paper, fertiliser and cider arrive twice a week from Sweden, with Scottish Whisky and raw materials from several of the UK’s limestone and dolomite mining operations going in the opposite direction. The dolomite is used in the production of specialist steel, and it is steel that forms the bulk of the imports TST handles, for Swedish steel giant SSAB.
With a long tradition of iron and steel production going back to the 13th century, Sweden is world-famous for its high quality steel, due in no small part to very high levels of quality control. Used by the Ministry of Defence and UK car industries, a single coil can be worth upwards of £10,000 and despite weighing in at up to 28 tonnes, needs careful handling and storage.
Acting as part of the distribution system of leading European Steel producers, the Thor Group Of Companies distributes substantial amounts of cargo by truck, barge and rail every year. “We operate as charterers or owners agents and often as both, says UK MD, Thomas Bryan. “A 24 hours operation is run by experienced and skilled water clerks and agency staff. We co-ordinate with rail and road transport providers and hold stock here and near to end user sites, so products can be called off and delivered within 48 hours’ notice.”
A customer of Windsor Materials Handling for over 20 years, TST’s Hull terminal is home to all manner of Windsor-supplied equipment, including counterbalance forklifts, sideloaders, reach stackers, tugs, scrubber driers and trailers.
The latest to arrive is a fleet of three Kalmar forklifts, up to 33 tonnes in capacity, designed to help the business stay flexible and responsive in a very competitive sector. Being able to transport steel quickly by rail is an important element. The on-site railyard is the starting point for over 70,000 tonnes of steel each year, around a fifth of TST UK’s entire business.
One train alone can hold 750 tonnes in one journey, with the big machines allocated just 90 minutes to complete the loading. Heavy forklifts they may be, but the Kalmar has the power necessary to work with maximum productivity while ensuring best-in-class fine-manoeuvring.
The powerful Cummins engine is highly fuel efficient and the compliance with the Tier 4 emission standards was key to the business making an investment approaching three quarters of a million pounds.
“It’s not a pressure we feel from our customers,” says Thomas, “as much as our own desire to improve the emissions and take advantage of the latest technology. Our old trucks were over a decade old and needed replacing. We were at Tier 2 then, now we have Tier 4. It means there’s much less soot and particulate matter and we can look after the health and safety of our operators better, as well as look after customers products.”
As well as better emissions, the latest Kalmars feature variable pumps which automatically sense the load in every operation and adjust the oil flow accordingly. Faster lifting cycles means that the trucks are able to achieve the seemingly impossible of reducing fuel consumption whilst increasing lift cycle speeds by up to 40%. Windsor managing director, Stephen Burton, believes the Kalmar range is one of the best ever produced.
Says Stephen: “It’s not just the fuel efficiency but also the improved cabs. There a better environment for the operators, where they can spend a lot of time, and they are consistent across the fleet. Here everyone has a licence, allowing the business to be efficient over a larger area, and with all same set up in the cabs, over a dozen operators can be comfortable, familiar and safe operating the equipment.”
Fleet flexibility is also important, with Thomas choosing to upgrade to a 28 tonnes capacity model to ensure the capacity to handle bigger coils. “In Hull, no-one has over 20 tonnes capacity,” he adds, “so we had to beef up our own kit to make sure we have the flexibility to provide service levels that the customers expect and futureproof the business.”
“We are also very lucky that we have a fleet with engineer. Any issues, no matter how big or small are acted on immediately and general maintenance is always well catered for. It’s a big help and it flags up that we have good relationship with Windsor and the team.”
For Stephen, that decades-long relationship has helped to bring about the results that TST now benefits from. “Being the Kalmar approved partner gives us the range of equipment to deliver a complete service,” he adds, “but it is true that we have a good understanding, and we work hard to remain competitive and deliver great service.”