Vintage text THOMAS FREUNDLICH photos K ALMAR
Straddling the world Kalmar draws on nearly 70 years of expertise in straddle carriers.
he history of Kalmar straddle carriers goes back to Finland’s State Metal Works (Valmet) and the late 1940s. Finnish industry was kept busy with war reparations exports to the Soviet Union, and many factories were required to produce items that had never before been manufactured in Finland. One item was an odd-looking machine that Finnish engineers dubbed the “spider.” Designed for carrying boards at sawmills, the machine was recreated from a small, grainy photograph. In the years that followed, this vehicle was to become the blueprint for the modern straddle carrier. The first 1,500 straddle carriers were used for transporting boards and other heavy cargo. As the modern shipping container became a worldwide standard, the straddle carrier evolved to meet this new need. The first prototypes for container straddle carriers were built in 1975–76, and they have since become an essential tool at ports and terminals of all sizes.
Global success story “It has been great to follow the success of this product all over the world,” says Kari Ronkainen, General Manager, Product Support, Kalmar. He has worked on straddle carriers since 1974 and has seen the full evolution from the earliest container carriers to today’s state-of-the art Kalmar models. The first container straddle carriers were delivered to Germany and Belgium with worldwide customers following soon after. “I recall that one of the first outside Europe was the port of Aqaba in Jordan,” Ronkainen notes. “Though superficially a modern straddle carrier looks similar to a model from past decades, much 32
has changed under the hood. Advanced technology and automation are now ubiquitous,” notes Ari Hirvonen, Product Manager, Kalmar. The first generations of machines were twin-engine mechanically operated designs, while currently most run on diesel-electric power. Today, the control systems for straddle carriers are almost exclusively electric and electronic. Advanced onboard diagnostics alert operators and staff when maintenance is required. Originally, the driver handled jobs fairly independently with only general instructions on what to do next. Today, straddle carriers are closely integrated into Terminal Operating Systems (TOS) that give the operators direct instructions and job steps. As a step is being completed, the next step is already queued up, maximising efficiency and keeping idle time to a minimum. 1
Published on Jun 28, 2013