NEW COMMERCIAL wash racks can claim to be more productive than the one operated by the Gentenaar Group in Moerdijk, the Netherlands. More than 120 tank trailers and tank containers are cleaned daily in two bays.
The $8-million wash operation also cleans up to five rail tankcars and 50 to 60 intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) every day. The wash rack boasts a high-pressure automated cleaning system, sophisticated vapor containment capability, and biological wastewater treatment.
"The wash rack is the focal point of our multimodal European logistic tank center," says Henk Goppel, Gentenaar commercial director. "Within the 15-acre facility, we provide a unified range of services that includes product transfer and tank repairs. We invested $15 million to make this one of the best depots of its kind in Europe.
"We are about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Rotterdam, which is one of the chemical industry centers in Holland. We are in an industrial park that was developed by the Dutch government. We built the complex near two of Holland's primary motorways, which makes it easily accessible. We also have convenient rail connections, and we are adding a barge jetty."
Company Headquarters The logistics center also serves as headquarters of Gentenaar Group, which specializes in for-hire carriage of liquid bulk cargoes. The company was formed in 1952 and has become a specialist at transporting hazardous cargoes.
Gentenaar Tanktransport BV concentrates on European activities, while CargoTank Worldwide Services BV is the international division. The two units run a diversified fleet that includes 60 tank trailers and more than 4,000 tank containers.
CargoTank was formed from assets acquired in 1995 from Brambles, an Australian tank container operator. CargoTank has offices in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Israel, Turkey, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, China, Brazil, United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
Goppel says tank containers hold the best potential for the future. "Road tanker use will decline in Europe," he says. "At Gentenaar, our equipment investments are concentrated in tank containers and swap tanks. Under development are 40,000- (10,500-) and 42,000-liter (11,000-gallon) swap tanks that are comparable in capacity to road tankers."
Swap tanks are designed for use within Europe and are 30 feet long. Maximum capacity is in the 42,000-liter (11,000-gallon) range. In comparison, ISO tank containers are 20 feet long and typically hold around 24,000 liters (6,300 gallons).
Greater tank container use is being promoted by many of the western European governments. For instance, a new road tax is being adopted this year in the Rotterdam, Netherlands, area.
"We're being forced to find alternatives to road transport," Goppel says. "Approximately 30% of the tank containers cleaned at our Moerdijk depot leave by rail. In the future, we'll use barges for a high percentage of tank container and swap tank movements."
Protank Benelux BV was established in 1994 by Gentenaar Group to specialize in the leasing and transportation of mini-tanks, intermediate bulk containers, and rail tankcars. The division has approximately 2,600 rail tankcars available for chemical and petrochemical products.
ISO 9002 Certificate Gentenaar Group received ISO 9002 certification in 1988, and its various operating divisions also have been certified. The group was one of the pilot companies for the Safety and Quality Assessment System (SQAS) that has been implemented by CEFIC, the European Chemical Industry Council.
The assessment deals with seven areas: management, safety, health and environment, quality, equipment, operations, security, and depot inspection. SQAS assessments already are required by a number of European chemical companies.
"We received a 95.26% audit rating under the SQAS system," Goppel says. "The SQAS program has improved the chemical transportation industry, and it is being expanded. Tank cleaning criteria will be added in 1998.
"We have to pay for the audit, which is done every two years. Typically, two auditors and a chemical industry representative spend about two days inspecting a facility like ours. They interview facility personnel and drivers. The audit costs about 2,000 gilders (about $1,000) per day per auditor.
"Quality control is one reason we developed our logistic center. We believe it is beneficial to have as many services as possible in-house. It is hard to maintain quality when one is dealing with large numbers of vendors."
Center Development Work on the logistics center began in 1989, and the facility was operational in 1991. Of the $15 million spent on the depot, $8 million went into the wash rack.
This is the only logistics center and tank cleaning operation in the Gentenaar system. "This is probably a one-of-a-kind facility," Goppel says. "It takes tremendous cleaning volume for success. That sort of volume isn't easy to find outside the Rotterdam-Antwerp region.
"We are considering building smaller cleaning operations in other locations, especially Eastern Europe or the Baltics," he adds. "We are evaluating traffic lanes to determine the best locations, and we are investigating containerized or portable cleaning units that could be made operational very quickly."
Without question, the logistics center is an impressive facility, and it offers a range of driver amenities not often found at US tank cleaning operations. In addition to showers and a waiting lounge, the depot has a full-service restaurant with an extensive menu. A wakeup service is provided for drivers who stay overnight.
Many drivers do arrive at the depot during the night, and 24-hour security is provided. The drivers generally sleep in their tractors, with the intent of having their trailers cleaned first thing in the morning so they can pick up a load at one of the nearby chemical plants.
Wash Rack Hours The wash rack is open from 6 am to 10 pm, Monday through Friday and from 8 am to noon on Saturday. It is staffed by 25 tank cleaners divided among two shifts. Cleaners work at a fast pace, moving tanks at a rate considerably higher than is found in the typical US tank cleaning operation. Up to 120 tank trailers and tank containers a day can be cleaned in the wash rack. In addition, five rail tankcars and 50 to 60 IBCs can be cleaned.
Yard tractors keep the tank trailers and containers moving through the wash bays in a steady stream. Tank containers are moved around the facility on specially designed chassis. Gentenaar has its own shuttle unit for handling rail tankcars, and several forklifts are on hand for the IBCs.
A number of steps are taken to maximize productivity. For instance, exterior cleaning, drying, and final inspection are done at another station, not in the wash bays.
Internal Cleaning Internal cleaning is done in four bays. Two are dedicated to road tankers and tank containers, one is for rail tankcars, and the last is dedicated to IBCs. The operation is fully automated and is monitored from a central control panel.
Virtually any chemical product can be cleaned at the wash rack. This includes poisons, inks, and dyes. Each bay can be isolated and sealed to be vapor tight. The overhead doors have special gaskets that help ensure a tight seal. The air filtration system will capture and remove vapors for treatment and disposal.
Cleaning is performed with a high-pressure/low-volume wash system supplied by Alfred Karcher GmbH & Company. The Karcher spinners operate at 80 to 200 bars (1,160 to 2,900 psi).
Up to five spinners at a time can be used in each of the tank trailer bays. "We clean a lot of multicompartment road tankers and swap tanks," says Peter Bouman, Gentenaar cleaning plant manager. "Chemical trailers with up to five compartments are very common in Europe."
Heel Check All tanks go through the same initial steps in the cleaning process. After being shuttled into a wash bay, they are inspected for heel. Tanks with too much product residue are rejected.
If the cargo has a high vapor content, cones for forced-air vapor removal are inserted in the manholes. Up to 95% of hydrocarbon vapors are captured for treatment by a scrubber. Hardware, such as discharge valves, is disassembled and cleaned in the same bay as the tank. This ensures that parts aren't misplaced and valves aren't reassembled from mismatched parts.
Hose cleaning isn't an issue because European chemical transports generally don't carry hose. Shippers and consignees provide the hoses at their own facilities. Once the spinners are lowered into the tanks, actual cleaning can take as little as 10 to 15 minutes. More difficult chemicals, such as resins or latex, may take a half hour or longer.
"Cleaning time depends on the condition of the tank," Bouman says. "Has residue set up? Did the driver take steps to keep the product residue soft? With the high-pressure, we can blast some product residue off the tank walls."
The typical cleaning starts with a cold or warm water prerinse. In addition to steam and hot water, a variety of solutions are available for the wash stage. Workers can use detergent with a maximum of 5% sodium hydroxide or an acid-based detergent with 2% to 3% phosphoric acid. White spirits are used for petroleum products, and acetone is available for resins. The process concludes with a warm-water rinse.
Wastewater Treatment Wastewater from the cleaning activity goes through a multiphase treatment process. Chemical pretreatment comes first, and about 150,000 liters (39,600 gallons) a day are processed through the system.
Wastewater passes through a 100,000-liter (26,400-gallon) oil-separator tank before flowing into a 300,000-liter (79,250-gallon) holding tank. During chemical treatment, flocculants are added and the sludge is collected by a vacuum filter.
Some wastewater receives biological treatment following the chemical pretreatment. Chlorinated products are passed through carbon filtration. A refrigeration system condenses vapors for treatment.
Processed wastewater is released to a public treatment plant. Discharge water is sampled automatically at regular intervals. The Dutch government requires annual recalibration of the sampling instruments.
Final Steps Back at the wash bay, forced air is used to remove a majority of the warm water vapor remaining in the clean tank. This takes one to two minutes. The clean tank is pulled out of the wash bay, and the next tank is moved in.
Internal inspection is conducted only after the clean tank is removed from the wash bay. Gentenaar wash workers do not perform the inspection. That is the responsibility of surveyors employed by SGS Redwood (Nederland) BV.
"At Gentenaar Cleaning, we don't certify tanks as being clean," Bouman says. "There is no way we can guarantee that all residues of all previous cargoes have been removed. We leave it up to SGS, a third-party service, to verify that a tank meets the customer's requirements for cleanness and to issue an independent cleaning certificate. The customer pays for the SGS inspection."
While internal inspections are contracted out, Gentenaar workers occasionally must enter tanks for cleaning purposes. They receive thorough training in confined-space entry as required under Dutch regulations.
Two workers are assigned to each tank entry. One goes inside, while the other monitors the entrant. The observer must keep the entrant within eyesight at all times. The worker entering the tank must wear a harness with a retrieval device, along with oxygen and explosion meters.
Tank atmosphere is retested at half-hour intervals. Gentenaar uses Drager meters, which are recalibrated annually. The meters are calibrated to monitor maximum acceptable concentrations of vapors based on limits set by the European Union (EU).
Confined-space entry is a key part of the training given to newly hired workers at the wash rack. Training takes three days and covers hazardous cargoes, material safety data sheets, fire response, and basic first-aid. New workers are shown how to use and care for personal protective equipment that includes respirators, gloves, goggles, slicker suits, and coveralls.
Mechanics at Gentenaar Technics, the tank repair operation, receive the same confined-space-entry training. They work on all types of tanks, including IBCs. The repair operation meets all EU and Dutch requirements. It also complies with IMO tank container repair guidelines.
Like the wash rack, the tank repair operation works to meet high standards of quality. This effort has helped make Gentenaar's logistics center one of the premier facilities of its kind in Europe.
Gentenaar Group acquired P&O Tankmasters in late 1997. The acquisition of P&O's European tank container subsidiary strengthened Gentenaar's position as a pan-European bulk chemical and foodgrade service provider.
Through P&O Tankmasters, Gentenaar now has expanded into containerized dry bulk shipments. Gentenaar is benefiting from P&O Tankmasters' short-sea operations between the United Kingdom and Europe. Gentenaar has taken over the P&O Tankmaster offices in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Felixstowe, UK; and Warsaw, Poland.