30 June 2011

Cristina Brooks looks at safer hooks

Nautilus is a fledgling company that is already sweeping the globe with its patent-pending safety hook. It announced in May that it is expanding its distributor network to include the US, South American and South East Asian markets.

“The benefits are equally applicable across all industries; a safer, easier and cost-efficient operation that reduces the risk of personal injury and potentially costly claims,” says Nautilus managing director Bill Toon.

To access multiple industries, Nautilus is expanding its distribution network into the US this year. “The Nautilus Hooks are manufactured by Nautilus Rigging outside the US and imported by key distributors and industrial suppliers who will in turn sell to end users,” says Toon.

To secure its ownership of the hook’s design as it is taken overseas, Nautilus has patents pending in parts of Europe, the US and Australia for its main safety feature, a separate handle that eliminates trap-and-pinch injuries caused by traditional latch lock hooks. A European patent for the hook is in the process of approval and should be granted by January 2012, Toon told us. “In 2010 Nautilus Hooks received a positive examination report for all the inventive claims that cover the unique safety features, design and function of the hooks. This confirmed patentability and allowed the company to progress into the final phase of national patent nominations.”

Offshore firms already use Nautilus hooks on drilling rigs, ship cranes and dock cranes to reduce injuries caused by traditional hooks. Clients such as Transocean, Chevron, Stena and BHP use it, while Oil and Gas UK includes it in the inaugural directory of safety initiatives and industry-recommended best practices.

Toon pointed out its major European clients in the offshore sector as proof of the hook’s growing market. “SBS is using the hooks at its shore base loading facilities, Modulift has specified the hooks on a number of projects, and several North Sea training facilities have recently introduced the hooks into their crane and rigging courses.”

Far from being limited to offshore use, Nautilus hooks may be used for applications on land. Nautilus suggests manufacturers can include its pinch-free hook with new cranes to raise safety standards. “Nautilus hooks have been utilised in applications from telescopic knuckle boom truck cranes to overhead gantry cranes,” Toon said.

Materials handling using overhead cranes is a possible application for the hooks. One potential client, Ford automotive, is currently trialing the hooks in its car assembly line in Australia.

Construction firms will have increased access to the hooks through Nautilus’ expanded distribution network, and be able to raise the bar for safety across the industry by using it with gantry, knuckleboom, mobile and tower cranes. Nautilus says the hooks could benefit the construction industry not just because the hooks offer safety benefits, but because they are light and are easier to operate.

The company offers 19 standard hooks with working load limits of 4t through to 20t, and with several rigging attachments such as eye, clevis or swivel top.

A 6t hook currently popular for mobile crane operations, and therefore applicable within construction jobs, is the NH-SL6C. It has a clevis top and may be fitted to two or four leg chain assemblies. Nautilus recommends its 12.5, 16 or 20t hooks for larger cranes with heavier load ratings.

For clients looking to fit the hook to a different kind of rigging or configuration, Nautilus can produce bespoke hooks incorporating the safety features of the standard models.

The planned US distribution network will open a major market for Nautilus. It is currently in talks with a potential distributor and has set the end of 2011 as the target date for the introduction of the hook there.

Forjas Irizar
Forjas Irizar, specializing in hooks for over 100 years, introduced a 500t capacity forged quad hook at CeMAT Hannover this year. Forged hooks of this type and size are unusual as they are generally cast, a marketing representative said, and can be used for offshore work along with a range of other industries.

The new quad hook is intended for use on cranes with at least 150t of lifting capacity, but may be used for lifting loads of up to 500t.

Irizar already provides single and ramshorn hooks, and this hook, which may be used as a replacement for using twin ramshorn hooks in the same block when used with four ropes, will appeal to its current client base. The four ropes must equally distribute the load.

The hook can be forged of steel alloys, as the company has been approved by Lloyds register as meeting standards for production of austenic stainless steel or carbon, carbon-manganese and alloy steel.

Like many of its products, Forjas Irizar’s new hook is forged by compressing molten metal in localized areas, and during which process the grain of the metal aligns with the shape off the hook and becomes continuous throughout. The forging process results in better mechanical properties and longer life for hooks, requiring less frequent replacement, the firm says.

Because of the properties of forged metal, it is possible to make hooks smaller while retaining lifting capacity.

Smaller sized hooks have three distinct advantages.

The obvious one is decreased weight on the crane ropes, which offers operators easier set up. During lifting itself, a smaller crane hook is easier to manoeuvre. Finally a hook which uses less metal, is less expensive to manufacture, decreasing the cost to the end user.

Forjas Irizar designs, forges, and tests in house. This particular hook is tested three times.

The manufacturer hints that an even larger capacity version of the forged hook is currently being engineered.

Elebia, based in Barcelona, Spain, removes manual labour and risk with its patented 10t and 5t capacity remote release industrial hooks. Powerful magnets in the hooks attach to the rigging to remotely and mechanically hook the load, eliminating crew risk injury when hooking and unhooking loads. Adapting its hook for overhead cranes, such as those manufactured by Abus, Elevate, Konecranes, Demag, and Stahl, the company has built a client base in industrial manufacturing.

One of Elebia’s customers, Celsa, uses the hook in its steel plant. High temperatures within the steel-smelting environment prevent manual hook releasing, so the Elebia allows operators to grab loads from a safe distance using a remote. However, the hook is not just for indoor use. Significantly for electrical grid installers, it can be used with mobile cranes to eliminate the need for access platforms and forklifts. Erecting electrical towers using the hook relieves operators of the task of using an access platform to release loads. As the hook is magnetic, it must be paired with metallic rigging.

SecurAlift’s rotation limiting release hook, introduced just last year to the US, is making offshore and port crane operations safer. A number of offshore oil giants such as Statoil, Shell and Conoco Phillips can vouch for the Twister and HookMate, and construction companies may soon follow them.

The hooks were developed around 10 years ago to meet a demand for safe lifting on PSV supply vessels, which ferry materials and fuel to and from offshore drilling rigs. When cranes lifted loads, wind and waves caused the load to swing and hit personnel waiting on deck to release the load from the hook.

Norwegian owner of oil and gas rigs, Norsk Hydro, sent an invitation to tender to 32 engineering firms to design safer systems to use on its PSV supply vessels, with a view to creating ‘personnel free PSV decks’.

Seabrokers, the shipbrokering firm that owns SecurAlift, collaborated with inventor Ole Molaug and his engineering firm to write the winning proposal for a remote-operated hook. A remotely operated release latch relieves the need to have workers waiting to release the load in the danger zone.

The Twister allows for stabilized and controlled turning of the load during lifting and HookMate releases loads remotely, thereby decreasing the chances of harming any property or staff. It also increases the speed of operations that would be slowed by the need to avoid them.

Jostein Okland, general manager of SecurAlift explains the safety benefits of using the Twister and HookMate: “We are eliminating the personnel in the most dangerous zone of the lifting operation, the personnel which are working in the area where cargo is landing are removed.

“This remote-controlled hook operated by the crane operator eliminates the danger to cargo handling personnel,” Okland says. “However, personnel are still required for the hooking on of the load.”

Injury can result from using tag lines or manually guiding and manipulating the load in midair, as personnel get squeezed between cargo, containers or constructions. “Injury occurs to legs, arms, hands or the whole body,” Okland says.

Safety is also incorporated in HookMate’s failsafe system, which prevents the load from accidental release. “The mechanics are built and designed in such a way that the system is fail-safe. As long as there is a load exceeding 110lbs, the hook will not be able to open.

“It’s in principle the same kind of device that is on the wheel system on aircrafts,” Okland says. “As long as the aircraft is staying on the ground or there are loads hanging on the hook, its technically impossible to release the load. To operate the HookMate or the wheel system on an airplane you have to release the forces that are hanging.”

The HookMate can be attached to the Twister to add remote stabilising and the ability to rotate the load, which is particularly valuable for precise placement while preventing damage to crew and cargo on rough seas.

“When you’re working outside there is wind which generates a lot of forces to a suspended load, the Twister is able to control and stop the rotation. You can control how the load will be placed, if you want it turned preset 90°, 180°, or slew left or right. It would automatically correct for any wind or other outer forces.

“You can choose to stabilize the system to keep the load in the same position, regardless of wind forces. The crane operator can control what position the load is in,” says Okland.

This precision is useful within the oil industry when moving the long baskets, up to 52ft in length, commonly used for special pipes, tubes and other longer items. Okland explains, “The longer the cargo is the more of a helicopter effect you can get from the rotation and the forces are then able to damage all the equipment on the rig or the vessel, and of course the personnel. The main function of the Twister is to control that rotation and save damages or injuries on the load, the rig and the personnel.”

Although well suited to the sector, offshore is not the only application for which the Twister and HookMate may be used. Okland says, “It was the offshore requirement which brought up this idea, but the products Twister and HookMate, doesn’t need any modification of the crane, so it is usable for all different types of applications and industries.”

A new market opened for SecurAlift when it expanded into the US through its Virginia based distributor Safe-T-Hook.

“We have just ventured into the US market and are finding applications for the Twister and HookMate in the American construction industry, like high-rise buildings. The Twister and HookMate are usable for all kinds of crane operations and will provide a safer working environment for personnel,” says Okland.

“The hooks have applications in other industries where dangerous lifting operations are taking place,” Okland continued. “In the nuclear industry or in tight spaces like mine shafts, this equipment will provide a huge safety benefit. The HookMate and the Twister are able to connect directly in the ordinary hook block on all kind of cranes or can be made for specialized application.”