Title:
Process for handling cargo and cargo handling facility
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A process for handling cargo which comprises the step of providing a cargo handling facility having a wharf defining a marine berth of sufficient length to accommodate the docking of a marine vessel in substantially parallel relation to a sidewall of the wharf. A shelter having a roof structure overlying the marine berth and an adjacent portion of the wharf is also provided, with one or more overhead lifting means mounted beneath the roof structure for movement over the marine berth and over the adjacent portion of the wharf in both transverse and parallel directions relative to the sidewall providing for movement of cargo by the overhead lifting means between the marine vessel and one or more exterior transport positions located on the wharf. The one or more exterior transport positions are also preferably located under the roof.



Inventors:
Tsafaridis, Demetrius (Burlington, CA)
Application Number:
10/957100
Publication Date:
10/13/2005
Filing Date:
10/01/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65G63/00; B65G67/60; (IPC1-7): B63B27/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ADAMS, GREGORY W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Thomas N. Young (Troy, MI, US)
Claims:
1. A process for handling cargo comprising the step of providing a cargo handling facility having: a wharf defining a marine berth of sufficient length to accommodate the docking of a marine vessel in substantially parallel relation to a sidewall of said wharf; a shelter having a roof structure overlying said marine berth and an adjacent portion of said wharf; one or more overhead lifting means mounted beneath said roof structure for movement over said marine berth and over said adjacent portion of said wharf in both transverse and parallel directions relative to said sidewall so as to provide for movement of cargo by said overhead lifting means between said marine vessel and one or more exterior transport positions located on the wharf.

2. A process according to claim 1, wherein said overhead lifting means comprises a first overhead crane.

3. A process according to claim 2, wherein said one or more exterior transport positions are also located under said roof structure.

4. A process according to claim 3, wherein the shelter includes a waterside wall extending upwardly, from a bed of a water body on which the wharf sits, to the roof structure, such that the marine berth is sheltered on a water side by the waterside wall.

5. A process according to claim 4, wherein the facility additionally comprises a warehouse having an access wall in which one or more cargo doorways opening onto said wharf are provided.

6. A process according to claim 5, wherein the warehouse is orientated with its access wall positioned towards and arranged substantially parallel to a waterside edge of the wharf, such that the marine berth is sheltered on a land side by the access wall.

7. A process according to claim 6, wherein said one or more exterior transport positions are located one each on the wharf outside a respective one of said one or more cargo doorways.

8. A process according to claim 7, wherein said facility additionally comprises one or more cargo conveyance means associated one each with said one or more cargo doorways, each of said one or more cargo conveyance means being adapted to convey cargo between a respective one of said one or more exterior transport positions on the wharf outside its associated cargo doorway to a respective interior transport position in the warehouse inside its associated cargo doorway.

9. A process according to claim 8, wherein the cargo conveyance means is a conveyor belt.

10. A process according to claim 8, wherein the cargo conveyance means is a wheeled cart on rails.

11. A process according to claim 8, wherein the facility additionally comprises a transport means for moving cargo between each said respective interior transport position and an interior of the warehouse.

12. A process according to claim 11, wherein said transport means comprises, for each cargo conveyance means, a second overhead crane having rails extending, on opposite sides of said each cargo conveyance means, from the access wall, and in substantially normal relation thereto, to a back wall of the warehouse, opposed to the access wall.

13. A process according to claim 12, wherein the warehouse is climate-controlled, and has one or more cargo doors associated one each with said one or more cargo doorways, each cargo door being operatively mounted to the access wall for movement between an open position, whereat it is disposed apart from its associated cargo doorway, and a closed position, whereat it substantially occludes and seals said cargo doorway.

14. A process according to claim 5, wherein the first overhead crane has rails extending substantially parallel to the access wall and to the waterside wall.

15. A process according to claim 5, wherein the first overhead crane is provided with three bridges, each having a single trolley hoist.

16. A process according to claim 12, wherein each second overhead crane is provided with two bridges, each having a single trolley hoist.

17. A process according to claim 6, wherein the wharf has defined thereon, exterior to the warehouse and substantially parallel to its waterside edge, a first delivery alley which transport trucks may traverse.

18. A process according to claim 17, wherein the shelter has a pair of end walls substantially enclosing ends of said wharf, said end walls each having a first overhead door located therein to permit ingress and egress of transport trucks to and from the first delivery alley.

19. A process according to claim 18, wherein a second delivery alley is located in the warehouse, proximate the access wall and substantially parallel thereto, which loaded transport trucks may traverse, and wherein a warehouse exterior has second overhead doors located therein, at opposite ends of the second delivery alley, to permit ingress and egress of loaded transport trucks to and from the second delivery alley.

20. A process according to claim 19, wherein a third delivery alley is located in the warehouse proximate to the back wall of the warehouse, which a pair of loaded transport trucks may traverse in side-by-side relation, and wherein the warehouse exterior has third overhead doors located therein, at opposite ends of the third delivery alley, to permit ingress and egress of the pair of loaded transport trucks, in side-by-side relation, to and from the third delivery alley.

21. A process according to claim 20, wherein a fourth delivery alley is located in the warehouse, adjacent to and parallel the third delivery alley, which loaded rail cars may traverse, and wherein the warehouse exterior has fourth overhead doors located therein, at opposite ends of the fourth delivery alley, to permit ingress and egress of loaded rail cars to and from the fourth delivery alley.

22. A process according to claim 21, wherein the facility further comprises a climate-controlled staging structure connected exteriorly to the warehouse and forming a heated airlock in combination therewith, said airlock having located therein extensions of the third delivery alley and fourth delivery alley, in which loaded transport trucks and rail cars can be acclimatized prior to ingress to the warehouse, to limit moisture infiltration.

23. A cargo handling facility comprising: a wharf defining a marine berth of sufficient length to accommodate the docking of a marine vessel in substantially parallel relation to a sidewall of said wharf; a shelter having a roof structure overlying said marine berth and an adjacent portion of said wharf; one or more overhead lifting means mounted beneath said roof structure for movement over said marine berth and over said adjacent portion of said wharf in both transverse and parallel directions relative to said sidewall so as to provide for movement of cargo by said overhead lifting means between said marine vessel and one or more exterior transport positions located on the wharf.

24. A cargo handling facility according to claim 23, wherein said overhead lifting means comprises a first overhead crane.

25. A cargo handling facility according to claim 24, wherein said one or more exterior transport positions are also located under said roof structure.

26. A cargo handling facility according to claim 25, wherein the shelter includes a waterside wall extending upwardly, from a bed of a water body on which the wharf sits, to the roof structure, such that the marine berth is sheltered on a water side by the waterside wall.

27. A cargo handling facility according to claim 26, additionally comprising a warehouse having an access wall in which one or more cargo doorways opening onto said wharf are provided.

28. A cargo handling facility according to claim 27, wherein the warehouse is orientated with its access wall positioned towards and arranged substantially parallel to a waterside edge of the wharf, such that the marine berth is sheltered on a land side by the access wall.

29. A cargo handling facility according to claim 28, wherein said one or more exterior transport positions are located one each on the wharf outside a respective one of said one or more cargo doorways.

30. A cargo handling facility according to claim 29, additionally comprising one or more cargo conveyance means associated one each with said one or more cargo doorways, each of said one or more cargo conveyance means being adapted to convey cargo between a respective one of said one or more exterior transport positions on the wharf outside its associated cargo doorway to a respective interior transport position in the warehouse inside its associated cargo doorway.

31. A cargo handling facility according to claim 30, wherein the cargo conveyance means is a conveyor belt.

32. A cargo handling facility according to claim 30 wherein the cargo conveyance means is a wheeled cart on rails.

33. A cargo handling facility according to claim 30, additionally comprising transport means for moving cargo between each said respective interior transport position and an interior of the warehouse.

34. A cargo handling facility according to claim 23, wherein said transport means comprises, for each cargo conveyance means, a second overhead crane having rails extending, on opposite sides of said each cargo conveyance means, from the access wall, and in substantially normal relation thereto, to a back wall of the warehouse, opposed to the access wall.

35. A cargo handling facility according to claim 34, wherein the warehouse is climate-controlled, and has one or more cargo doors associated one each with said one or more cargo doorways, each cargo door being operatively mounted to the access wall for movement between an open position, whereat it is disposed apart from its associated cargo doorway, and a closed position, whereat it substantially occludes and seals said cargo doorway.

36. A cargo handling facility according to claim 27, wherein the first overhead crane has rails extending substantially parallel to the access wall and to the waterside wall.

37. A cargo handling facility according to claim 27, wherein the first overhead crane is provided with three bridges, each having a single trolley. hoist.

38. A cargo handling facility according to claim 34, wherein each second overhead crane is provided with two bridges, each having a single trolley hoist.

39. A cargo handling facility according to claim 28 wherein the wharf has defined thereon, exterior to the warehouse and substantially parallel to its waterside edges, a first delivery alley which transport trucks may traverse.

40. A cargo handling facility according to claim 39, wherein the shelter has a pair of end walls substantially enclosing ends of said wharf, said end walls each having a first overhead door located therein to permit ingress and egress of transport trucks to and from the first delivery alley.

41. A cargo handling facility according to claim 40, wherein a second delivery alley is located in the warehouse, proximate the access wall and substantially parallel thereto, which loaded transport trucks may traverse, and wherein a warehouse exterior has second overhead doors located therein, at opposite ends of the second delivery alley, to permit ingress and egress of loaded transport trucks to and from the second delivery alley.

42. A cargo handling facility according to claim 41, wherein a third delivery alley is located in the warehouse proximate to the back wall of the warehouse, which a pair of loaded transport trucks may traverse in side-by-side relation, and wherein the warehouse exterior has third overhead doors located therein, at opposite ends of the third delivery alley, to permit ingress and egress of the pair of loaded transport trucks, in side-by-side relation, to and from the third delivery alley.

43. A cargo handling facility according to claim 42, wherein a fourth delivery alley is located in the warehouse, adjacent to and parallel the third delivery alley, which loaded rail cars may traverse, and wherein the warehouse exterior has fourth overhead doors located therein, at opposite ends of the fourth delivery alley, to permit ingress and egress of loaded rail ends of the fourth delivery alley, to permit ingress and egress of loaded rail cars to and from the fourth delivery alley.

44. A cargo handling facility according to claim 43, wherein the facility further comprises a climate-controlled staging structure connected exteriorly to the warehouse and forming a heated airlock in combination therewith, said airlock having located therein extensions of the third delivery alley and fourth delivery alley, in which loaded transport trucks and rail cars can be acclimatized prior to ingress to the warehouse, to limit moisture infiltration.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to the field of material handling, and more specifically, to a process for handling cargo and a cargo handling facility for use in such process.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Approximately ninety-five percent of world cargo volume moves by marine vessels.

Historically, a large portion of sea cargo was breakbulk goods, namely, loose cargo, such as slings of bananas, or coils of steel, stowed directly in the hold of a ship.

Conventionally, when the ship docked, a crew of stevedores supplied by a stevedoring firm stood ready to assist in the off-loading of the cargo. The off-loading commenced with the ship's crane, dockside gantry, or mobile crane supplied by the stevedoring firm or the port in question, being utilized to transfer the cargo from the ship's hold to a debarkation area on the dock defined by the reach of the crane(s). The stevedores thereafter moved such cargo by forklift from the debarkation area to a storage area, such as a warehouse, whereupon warehouse employees assumed carriage of the cargo. With the cargo so removed from the debarkation area, further cargo could be transferred there by the crane, and the method repeated until such time as the hold was empty. The process was thereafter reversed, for loading.

This conventional method of ship unloading and loading is relatively slow, labour intensive, and costly. Moreover, it is subject to weather delays, particularly in harsher climates. Accordingly, in recent years,

Containerization pemits substantial improvements in the speed by which cargo is loaded and unloaded, and in the shipping industry, profits are made by maximizing the amount of time that vessels are in production, namely, transporting goods, and minimizing the amount of time that vessels are in port.

However, containerization is not without its drawbacks.

As one such drawback, standard containers are typically engineered for loads up to 20 tons, whereas many discrete loads, such as steel coils, are in excess of that mass.

As another such drawback, the containers themselves represent a significant load, thereby reducing the transport capacity of the vessel.

Further, lakers, which carry the bulk of the cargo within the Great Lakes, are of a size and configuration which is not amenable to the large scale cartage of containers.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide for the handling of cargo, including but not limited to breakbulk cargo, in a manner that is relatively inexpensive compared to conventional methods of handling breakbulk cargo.

This object, amongst, others, is met by the present invention, a process for handling cargo.

The process for handling cargo comprises the step of providing a cargo handling facility.

The cargo handling facility includes a wharf defining a marine berth of sufficient length to accommodate the docking of a marine vessel in substantially parallel relation to a sidewall of the wharf; a shelter having a roof structure overlying the marine berth and an adjacent portion of the wharf; one or more overhead lifting means, such as overhead cranes, are mounted beneath the roof structure for movement over the marine berth and over the adjacent portion of the wharf in both transverse and parallel directions relative to the sidewall of the wharf. This provides for movement of the cargo by the overhead lifting means between the marine vessel and one or more exterior transport positions located on the wharf, which exterior transport positions are also preferably located under the roof structure.

The cargo handling facility preferably further includes a waterside wall extending upwardly, from the bed of water on which the wharf sits, to the roof structure, so that the marine berth is sheltered on the water side by the waterside wall.

The cargo handling facility preferably also further includes a warehouse having an access wall in which one or more cargo doorways opening onto the wharf are provided. The warehouse structure is preferably oriented with its access wall positioned towards and arranged substantially parallel to the waterside edge of the wharf, such that the marine berth is sheltered on the land side by the access wall. The one or more exterior transport positions are preferably located one each on the wharf outside a respective one of the one or more cargo doorways.

One or more cargo conveyance means are preferably associated one each with said one or more cargo doorways, and each of said one or more cargo conveyance means is adapted to convey cargo between a respective exterior transport position on the wharf outside its associated cargo doorway to a respective interior transport position in the warehouse inside its associated cargo doorway.

The transport means is for moving cargo between the interior transport positions and the interior of the warehouse.

The location and the structure of the facility provides for an efficient and advantageous deployment of stevedore and warehouse labour, thereby to permit handling of cargo, including breakbulk cargo, in a manner that is relatively inexpensive as compared to conventional breakbulk cargo handling processes.

Other advantages, features and characteristics of the present invention, as well as methods of operation and functions of the related elements of the structure, and the combination of parts and economies of manufacture, will become more apparent upon consideration of the following detailed description and the appended claims with reference to the accompanying drawings, the latter of which is briefly described hereinafter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a plan view of a cargo handling facility provided in a preferred embodiment of the process of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an enlarged plan view of the structure of FIG. 1;

FIG. 2A is an enlarged view of encircled area 2A of FIG. 2;

FIG. 3 is a front, right perspective view of the structure of FIG. 1, with a marine vessel shown approaching the marine berth;

FIG. 4 is a view similar to FIG. 3, with the marine vessel berthed and shown in phantom outline;

FIG. 5 is a right side interior perspective, view of the structure of FIG. 4, with the cargo-doors of the marine vessel shown in their closed, sealed positions;

FIG. 5A is an enlarged view of encircled area 5A of FIG. 5;

FIG. 6 is a view similar to FIG. 5, with a pair of cargo doors to the cargo hold shown open, and with the hoist of a first overhead crane disposed above the hold;

FIG. 7 is a view similar to FIG. 6, with cargo (in this particular case, a coil of steel), shown being withdrawn from the hold by the hoist of the first overhead crane;

FIG. 8 is a view similar to FIG. 7, with the first overhead crane shown depositing the cargo at an exterior transport position on a respective cargo conveyance means;

FIG. 9 is a view similar to FIG. 7, with the first overhead crane shown depositing the cargo onto a transport truck;

FIG. 10 is a view of the structure of FIG. 8, from the interior of the warehouse, with the cargo conveyance means repositioned such that the cargo is presented at the interior transport position of the cargo, and with a second overhead crane shown in the process of picking up the cargo;

FIG. 11 is a view similar to FIG. 10, with the second overhead crane shown depositing the cargo at a position on the warehouse floor;

FIG. 12 is a view similar to FIG. 10, with the second overhead crane shown depositing the cargo on a transport truck.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

A process for handling cargo according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention will now be described with general reference to FIG. 1 through FIG. 12 of the drawings.

The process comprises the step of providing a cargo handling facility which is designated with general reference numeral 20 in FIG. 3, and will be understood to include, in the preferred embodiment illustrated: a wharf 22, a warehouse 24, a staging structure 26 and one or more cargo conveyance means 28, all as indicated in FIG. 2; a shelter 30, as indicated in FIG. 4; one or more overhead lifting means 32, as indicated in FIG. 5; and transport means 34, as indicated in FIG. 11.

In the preferred embodiment illustrated, the wharf 22 defines a marine berth of sufficient length to accommodate the docking of a marine vessel 42, said marine berth being shown in phantom outline in FIG. 1 and designated with general reference numeral 36. The wharf 22 preferably has defined thereon, substantially parallel to its waterside edge 38, as shown in FIG. 5, a first delivery alley 40 which transport trucks may traverse.

The marine vessel 42 is shown, inter alia, in FIG. 3, and a transport truck 44 as shown, inter alia, in FIG. 5, but it should expressly be understood that neither form part of the invention.

The warehouse 24 of the preferred embodiment is not essential to the broadest conception of the invention, but where present preferably is a climate-controlled structure having an access wall 46, a back wall 48 opposed to the access wall 46, and end walls 50 extending between the access wall 46 and the back wall 48, all as indicated in FIG. 2, and is orientated with the access wall 46 thereof positioned towards and arranged substantially parallel to the waterside edge 38 of the wharf 22, such that the marine berth 36 is sheltered on the land side by the access wall 46, as indicated in FIG. 4.

The access wall 46 is provided with one or more cargo doorways 52, numbering five in the preferred embodiment illustrated, opening onto said wharf 22, and one or more cargo doors 54, associated one each with said one or more cargo doorways 53, are also provided, as illustrated in FIG. 2. Each cargo door 54 is operatively mounted to the access wall 46 for movement between an open position, whereat it is disposed apart from its associated cargo doorway 52 as shown in FIG. 11, and a closed position, whereat it substantially occludes and seals said cargo doorway against the ambient air outside, as shown in FIG. 12.

Located within the warehouse 24, and specifically, defined on the storage floor thereof, are second 56, third 58 ad fourth 60 delivery alleys, adapted to permit the traverse of delivery vehicles as set forth hereinafter, and provided in the exterior wall structure 62 of the warehouse 24 (as shown generally in FIG. 3) are overhead doors 64, disposed in pairs for each of said delivery alleys 56, 58, 60, at respective ends thereof and adapted to permit ingress and egress of said delivery vehicles, as best indicated in FIG. 2.

The second delivery alley 56 is located proximate and substantially parallel to the access wall 46, and is adapted to permit the traverse of loaded transport trucks 44; the third delivery alley 58 is located proximate to the back wall 48 of the warehouse 24, and is adapted to permit traverse by a pair of loaded transport trucks 44 in side-by-side relation; and the fourth deliver valley 60 is located adjacent to and parallel the third delivery alley 58, and is adapted to permit the traverse of loaded rail cars (not shown).

The staging structure 26 is connected exteriorly to warehouse 24 and forms a heated airlock 66 in combination therewith, said airlock 66 having located therein extensions of the third delivery alley and fourth delivery alley, numbered 68, 70 respectively in FIG. 2, in which loaded transport trucks and rail cars can be acclimatized prior to ingress to the warehouse, to limit moisture infiltration into the warehouse.

The one or more cargo conveyance means 28 are associated one each with said one or more cargo doorways 52, with each of said one or more cargo conveyance means 28 being adapted to convey cargo between a respective exterior transport position 72 on the wharf 22 outside its associated cargo doorway 52 to a respective interior transport position 74 in the warehouse 24 inside its associated cargo doorway 52. The exterior transport positions 72 are shown in phantom outline in FIG. 5; interior transport positions 74 are shown in phantom outline in FIG. 11.

As best illustrated in FIGS. 2A and 5A, in the preferred embodiment illustrated, the cargo conveyance means 28 are shown as tandem steel coil conveyors, each including a pair of cart rails 76; a wheeled cart 78 mounted for rolling movement on said rails and load-rated for 50 tons; and a cable and pulley system (not shown) operatively connected to said wheeled cart 78 to selectively propel same between the wharf 22 and the interior 79 of the warehouse 24. Of course, conveyor belts could be readily substituted for the steel coil conveyors, if the process were to be employed for handling bulk cargo or relatively less massive cargo.

As illustrated in FIG. 4, the shelter 30 preferably includes a roof structure 80; a waterside wall 82; and a pair of shelter end walls 84.

The roof structure 80 overlies the wharf 22 and the marine berth 36, thereby to overly the one or more overhead lifting means 32, the marine berth 36, and the exterior transport positions 74. Lights (not shown) are preferably suspended beneath the roof structure 80 to illuminate the sheltered area.

The waterside wall 82 extends upwardly, from the bed of the water body on which the wharf sits, to the roof structure 80, such that the marine berth 36 is sheltered on the water side by the waterside wall 82, and in the preferred embodiment, is arranged substantially parallel to the access wall 46.

The shelter end walls 84 substantially enclose the ends of said wharf 22, said end walls 84 each having an overhead door 64 located therein to permit ingress and egress of transport trucks to and from the first delivery alley 40.

The one or more overhead lifting means 32, preferably being one or more overhead cranes, are provided to move cargo between a berthed vessel, as illustrated in FIG. 5, and the exterior transport positions 72, and in the preferred embodiment comprises a first overhead crane 86.

In the preferred embodiment illustrated, the first overhead crane 86 is arranged such that its rails 88 are disposed adjacent and parallel to the access wall 46 and the waterside wall 82, respectively, and is provided with, for example, three bridges 90, each having at least one trolley hoist 92.

The transport means 34 is for moving cargo between the interior transport positions 74 and the interior 79 of the warehouse 24 and, as illustrated in FIG. 11, in the preferred embodiment comprises, for each cargo conveyance means 28, a second overhead crane 94 having a pair of rails 96 extending, on opposite sides of said each conveyor 28, from the access wall 46, and in substantially normal relation thereto, to the back wall 48 of the warehouse 24, and provided with two bridges 98, each having a single trolley hoist 100 rated for 50 tons.

Other steps in the inventive process will become evident upon consideration of the following description of the facility 20 in operation.

In operation, a vessel to be unloaded will be maneuvered into the marine berth, as indicated by the sequence of FIG. 3 and FIG. 4, and secured to the wharf 22 in a conventional manner (not shown).

Thereafter, stevedores will unload the cargo from the vessel utilizing the first overhead crane 86.

Typically, such cargo will be breakbulk cargo, such as coils of steels, stowed in the hold, as well as sundry containers secured topside to the vessel.

Unloading involves opening the doors to the hold of the vessel, as indicated by the sequence of FIGS. 5, 6; withdrawing a piece of cargo from the hold, as indicated by the sequence of FIGS. 6,7; and depositing the cargo on a respective wheeled cart 28, as shown in FIG. 8, or on the bed of a transport truck 44, as shown in FIG. 9. The choice of transport truck, and among the wheeled carts 28, will be calculated by the stevedores, having regard to the intended destination of the goods using conventional logistics techniques which accordingly are not detailed herein. All three hoists 92 on the first overhead crane 86 will be utilized by the stevedores, to expedite unloading of the vessel, and because the wharf 22 and the marine berth 36 are sheltered and illuminated, unloading can be carried on continuously, night and day, and in inclement weather conditions.

After cargo is deposited onto the wheeled carts 78 (which form part of the cargo conveyance means 28) the associated cargo doorway 54 is opened, the wheeled carts 78 are urged into the warehouse interior 79; and the cargo doorway 54 is closed, as indicated by the sequence of FIG. 11 and FIG. 12. This limits moisture infiltration into the warehouse interior 79, and thus, minimizes corrosion or other moisture-related spoilage of the cargo, as well as loading on the warehouse HVAC system.

Warehousing/logistics of the cargo occurs contemporaneously with unloading.

Specifically, as the wheeled carts 78 reach the interior transport positions 74, as shown in FIG. 10, warehouse labour utilizing the associated second overhead cranes 94 empty the wheeled cart 78 and deposit the cargo thereon either onto a delivery vehicle 101 located on the delivery alleys 56, 58 or 60, as indicated by the sequence of FIG. 10 and FIG. 12, or into the warehouse, as indicated by the sequence of FIG. 10 and FIG. 11. Once emptied, the cargo doorway 54 is reopened, and the wheeled cart 78 is returned to the exterior transport position 72, to receive further cargo, until such time as the vessel is unloaded. Of course, the warehouse interior 79 is illuminated and climate controlled, such that operation can be carried on in darkness and inclement weather, so as not to impede the progress of the stevedores. The three bridges 98 and the associated hoists 100 of the second overhead cranes 96 are utilized simultaneously, to expedite unloading, with the bridge 98 disposed nearest the interior transport positions 74 being deployed largely to move cargo off the wheeled carts 78 a short distance within the warehouse 24, to speed cycle time, and the second overhead cranes 96 more distant being deployed for more time-consuming warehousing/logistics functions.

Transport trucks, rail cars/rail car movers and/or tow motors (not shown) may also be utilized to move cargo within the warehouse, so as to be within the reach of a given second overhead crane 96, or to bring said cargo into the airlock 66, to shed excess moisture prior to warehousing, as desired.

A similar process is followed in reverse, for loading of the vessel, as will be readily understood by persons of ordinary skill in the art upon review of the foregoing disclosure, and as such, is not described herein in detail.

Numerous advantages flow from the present process and facility as compared to processes and facilities of the prior art.

As one advantage, the consolidation of equipment, combined with the ability to readily operate in darkness, and inclement weather conditions, permits permanent staffing of the facility, both in terms of warehouse workers and stevedores, in a shift work environment, which heretofore has been out of reach. The economies of scale inherent in the process and facility disclosed provide significant advantages in efficiencies and costs, particularly in relation to, for example, operating costs, all to the benefit of shippers, port authorities, warehousers and stevedores.

As another advantage, the consolidation of stevedoring and warehousing functions within a single management unit simplifies the transportation chain. Shippers may therefore demand greater accountability, which, in turn, should tend to minimize damage and deterioration in the transport chain, with resultant cost benefits.

As yet another advantage, the consolidation of operations and economies of scale readily permit the introduction of automated inventory control systems.

As yet another advantage, the process provides for an efficient allocation of labour between stevedores and warehouse labour, such that the involvement of stevedores in warehouse/logistic efforts is minimized, and such that the involvement of warehouse/logistics employees in stevedoring functions is minimized, with resultant cost benefits flowing therefrom.

Of course, various modifications and alterations may be used in the present invention without departing from its spirit or scope. Accordingly, the present invention should be understood as limited only by the accompanying claims, purposively construed.