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Expanding port activity bodes well for new PSC tank wash

Dec. 1, 2008
It's No secret to PSC Container Services that the United States-China shipping trade increased almost 1,500 percent between the years of 1989 and 2006.

It's No secret to PSC Container Services that the United States-China shipping trade increased almost 1,500 percent between the years of 1989 and 2006.

In addition, as the ports on the West Coast become more congested, trade routes are shifting to US ports in the Southeast via the Panama Canal. PSC managers also are aware that the current widening and capacity doubling of the canal are expected to provide additional opportunities for trade with US southeastern ports and China, as well as other Asian countries.

Meanwhile, the US government reports that among the southeastern port districts, the value of US imports from China by vessel grew the most in the Norfolk, Virginia; Savannah, Georgia; and San Juan, Puerto Rico port districts — all situated to boost land and sea traffic to the Charleston, South Carolina, area.

With these facts in hand, and other considerations in mind, PSC opened a new tank cleaning facility in March 2008 in Charleston, one of the busiest container ports along the Southeast and Gulf coasts with cargo valued at more than $60 billion annually, according to port information.

“This data has been part of our strategy and why we constructed our Charleston facility in anticipation of further growth,” says Greg Winters, PSC Container Services vice-president of sales. “Additionally, there have been discussions between China and Canada for Canada to expand one of its West Coast port facilities. That plan includes participation with Canadian National Railway for a land bridge approach to pick up the containers and rail them to eastern inland port transloading facilities. There also are plans to beef up the port of Jacksonville (Florida), although the shipping companies have gotten used to calling at other ports, so Jacksonville has some significant marketing to do to with those lines if it wants to compete.”

Handling competition

And speaking of competing, PSC is ready to handle the anticipated container growth with its new Charleston facility that was designed for hard-to-clean tank containers and tank trailers. In addition, the new tank wash has a bay dedicated to cleaning multiple ISO containers at the same time. A major Charleston customer, Boasso America Corporation, has a tank container depot next door to the PSC tank wash. The PSC Charleston managers keep Boasso apprised of scheduling in a 72-hour electronic report.

PSC is no new kid on the block in tank wash knowledge, operating 21 locations predominantly in the eastern and mid-western United States. Systemwide, PSC cleans about 20,000 tanks per month.

Most recently, the company acquired land adjoining its tank cleaning facility in Corapolis, Pennsylvania, and built a 5,000-square-foot building and accompanying parking area for Schneider National Inc; a 10,000-plus-square-foot office and three-bay shop; as well as parking space for M C Tank Transport Inc; and terminal office and another shop bay for Enterprise Transportation Inc. PSC also has other plans on the drawing board for expanding services in other parts of the United States that will be announced at a later time.

Meanwhile, the new wash rack in Charleston is busy cleaning challenging products found in tank containers and tank trailers that haul basic formulations for paints and related products, as well as a variety of chemicals. Some chemical products shipped from China in non-baffled tanks leave a “bathtub ring” on the container walls, a challenge that calls for special treatment, Winters points out.

Equipment plan

The six-acre site with four drive-through bays and a fifth dedicated to tank containers was designed as part of PSC's standardized equipment plan under development throughout the company's facilities, notes Paul Lewis, PSC Container Services president.

“The company's locations are being updated with new cleaning equipment and information technology that provides front- and back-office support,” Lewis notes. “An electronic commodity database-driven, in-house designed workorder computer system that attaches a material safety data sheet (MSDS) and wash protocol for each chemical to be cleaned, is part of our new system.”

A confined-space entry permit is uploaded, as well as any authorizations required — all of which lead ultimately to an invoice. Eventually the system will bill customers electronically.

“All of this means that we are more efficient and can better serve our clients,” says Lewis. “And it makes our records immediately available for reviews and inspections.”

Residual data

Winters notes that when a tank arrives for cleaning, cleaners gather information about the product previously hauled from bills of lading and waste manifests, MSDS, placarding, marking, labeling, and valve tags and markings. They also consult with customers about the products, when necessary. Once products are identified and the information entered into the system, the data automatically generates the wash protocol necessary for the job.

PSC emphasizes residue identification and considers its management a key component associated with container cleaning. Knowing what products are being handled and their chemical structures ensures a consistent cleaning process and appropriate residuals management.

“The most important aspect of residual identification is it prevents our employees from being exposed to safety hazards,” says Lewis. “It also prevents potential chemical reactions with cleaning agents and mixing of incompatible residuals.”

As an added bonus, the company can determine if material can be recycled, which supports PSC's corporate “go green” environmental initiatives. A residual log is maintained daily that contains a list of all work done and the residual collected during the 24-hour period and electronically uploads directly into a comprehensive data base tracking system.

Standardized equipment

In all of this mix is a company-wide process for reconditioning PSC's service center network with new equipment that includes stainless steel piping and vats. PSC uses a four-bay wash rack and office model as its standard building footprint that allows for flexibility to accommodate larger schemes. A minimum of six acres will be required for all future facilities. Within the new plan is the incorporation of foodgrade service at several service centers.

The Charleston facility is a flagship for the company's innovations. The vat-style cleaning system, built by Smart Welding and Fabrication, includes five 1,500-gallon tanks. Vats contain cold and hot water, detergent (two vats), and boosted caustic. Derby City Pump and Valve Service was an integral vendor to the project with the development and installation of the pumps, catwalks, and wastewater process equipment.

“We installed a 200-horsepower Cleaver Brooks boiler with a 60-horsepower Industrial boiler for backup,” says Billy Warren, Charleston facility manager. “Each bay has its own spinner, either a Gamajet or Sellers, and a Gorman Rupp return pump. Hart Industries supplied hoses.”

In addition to cleaning equipment, an outdoor steam heating pad is available that can handle eight tanks at a time. Condensation is recaptured as water and returned to the boiler from the pad.

Wastewater handling

PSC installed a stainless steel dissolved air flotation (DAF) wastewater treatment system supplied by Sierra Environmental Services. Wastewater is captured from each bay, drained into a sump, and then pumped into a 20,000-gallon holding tank for treatment and solids separation. Solids are skimmed off and hauled to waste disposal sites while the wastewater is chemically treated to adjust pH and eventually released into the sewer.

“The wastewater system typically operates about six hours a day, depending on how much work is going on,” says Warren.

To maintain air quality, a scrubber was installed for capturing odorous vapors. Hoses are attached to the tanks, and the vapors run through a vat and deodorizer with the capability of neutralizing odors.

To ensure security, the facility is fenced and gated with camera surveillance active around the clock. Wastewater equipment and chemicals are stored in a fenced and locked area adjacent to one of the bays.

“We feel we set the bar for the highest environmental standards,” says Lewis. “Safety is the foundation for everything we do. But it is our staff of experienced people and industry experts who make all of this possible. They balance this commitment to operational, safety, and environmental excellence with a customer service focus at all levels of our organization.

“It is our goal to provide exceptional service so that our customers can concentrate on their core business while capturing reduced operating costs. That is the philosophy we have for our new Charleston facility and is fundamental for all of our operations.”

About the Author

Mary Davis