The Various Types Of Terminals

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There are various types of terminals and they are designed to match the type of traffic which passes through them. Terminals are areas within the ports where major activities regarding cargo movement take place. They contain berths dedicated to discharging particular kinds of cargo from ships and aircraft. In the contest of shipping, terminals refer to places where there is an interchange between the same or different modes of transport. Even when the goods are transported internationally through frontiers, terminals are provided to process the handling of goods.

Terminals have berths, aprons, or platforms where the physical means of transportation lies to discharge and load cargo. Terminals are usually operated by the Ports Authority or by concessionaires granted rights by the government to run the terminals. These concessionaires may also be shipping lines who are interested in investing in terminals. They do this to ensure efficient handling of their ships, as time spent in discharging and loading can significantly affect their operations. In many cases, the organizations that operate the ports are different from the terminal operators.

Terminals at airport handle both cargo and passengers, but most cargo activities are concentrated at the cargo hubs. Unlike the seaports, the variety of air cargo in terms of size and type is such that specialised terminals are not required. Usually, air cargo is in two forms; a large number of small consignments that require sorting, batching and storage before transfer to aircraft, or large containerised unit loads that do not require much handling.

Because of the wide variety, nature, size and volume of cargo handled at seaports, specialized terminals are required. These terminals include:

  1. Break Bulk Cargo Terminals: These are conventional terminals that have berths designed for the loading and unloading of cargoes individually shipped in loose form such as in bags, boxes, bales, drums etc. the cargo is handed over to the carrier in their loose form and the carrier simply places them in ship’s hold as presented. Breakbulk goods include fertilizers, rice or sugar in bags, machinery, spare parts in cases, chemicals in drums, steel coil, pipes, forest products, etc.

2, Dry Bulk Cargo Terminals: These are for unloading and loading of dry bulk cargo such as grains, cement, coal, fertilizers, raw sugar and gypsum. Because of the bulk nature of the goods that are handled at these terminals, manual labour for individual handling is not required. Handling equipment includes grabs, pipes, suction pumps as well as conveyors. In dry bulk cargo terminals, conveyors together with hoppers incorporating elevators are used to deposit the cargo into a ship or on the quayside for loading on the vessels.

3, Bulk Liquid Cargo Terminals: These have designed berths for handling liquid cargo in bulk. Cargoes handled at these terminals include wines, chemicals, vegetable oils and petroleum products such as diesel, aviation fuel, kerosene and petrol(PMS). Handling of cargo is by means of pumps and pipes. The cargo is pumped into the vessels during loading and at the time of discharge is pumped into tanks situated within the terminal. The storage tanks may also be situated far away from the terminal provided adequate pipping is provided.

4, Oil terminals: These are specially designated terminals for the loading and unloading of crude oils and petroleum products which are carried by large tankers. Some types of tankers such as the Very Large Crude Carriers(VLCC)require deep water berths havings depths of up to 20 meters, with some located off-shore. Cargo handling at oil terminals is by means of hoses and pipelines. Loading and discharge are done using articulated arms that connect to the tankers’ manifold which is usually located in the middle of the ship. Some vessels are equipped with self-loading/ discharge capabilities requiring less of shore facilities. Adequate pumping facilities and valve are a major requirement for ports where oil terminals are located.

5, LNG/LPG Terminals: These are terminals specially constructed to load and unload natural and petroleum gases in liquid form. They have deep water berths and are usually located well outside the main port, while some are located offshore. The locations of the berths are done to meet safety requirements. The types of cargo handled at these terminals are hydrocarbons such as ethylene and butane which are gaseous at normal temperature. Cargo handling is done by means of pipes and loading arms designed to handle gases at very low temperature. Modern loading arms are computer controlled.

6. Roll-On-Roll-Off (Ro-Ro) Terminals: A ro-ro terminal is one that has specially designated berths for the loading and unloading of ships in which most of the cargoes carried are on wheels. The quayside is carefully constructed to allow vessels ramp to lie securely. Cargoes handled at these terminals are mostly cars, buses, vans, trucks and heavy construction equipment. They are simply driven in and out of the vessels during loading and discharging operations. Ro-ro vessels also carry a significant amount of containerized cargo in 20’ and 40’ containers which are mainly handled using shore equipment. Handling equipment at the terminals include forklift trucks, straddle carriers and semi-trailers. Usually, large areas are provided for the storage of automobiles and other vehicles as well as containers.

7. Container Terminals: These have several berths for the loading and unloading of ships that carry cargoes in containers of mainly 20’ and 40’ lengths as well as heavy and oversized cargo which are usually carried on ships deck or on top of containers. The berths are constructed to have strong quays to withstand the weight of heavy machines used to load and discharge containers. Containers ships rely on shore equipment for loading and discharging. Handling systems at container terminals include large rail-mounted gantry cranes, straddle carriers, reach stackers, big forklift trucks, trailers and low-loaders; large storage areas are provided for the stacking of containers. The storage areas are also strengthened to carry the heavy weight of stacked containers and handling equipment.

The challenges associated with providing enough storage space at container terminals is the reason many shipping lines acquire land outside the port areas for the purpose. Unfortunately, in some developing countries like Nigeria, off-dock locations are sometimes situated in remote areas, making access to them a serious problem. Roads to a handful of these locations are in poor conditions and in some cases, truck drivers face heavy traffic


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I am a professional, dedicated freight manager. Passionate about leveraging products to improve geographical knowledge, communication, honesty, and narrow shipping disparities. I have extensive knowledge of freight management, cargo handling procedures, and the urgency often faced with importing. I think it is safe to say, that it is a big part of why I am still in the business today. I believe work ethics is a talent, and I believe there is a smart way to work hard that is far more important than the number of hours you are in the office in a day. Passion, focus, integrity, steadfastness, curiosity, impatience (when necessary), and fiercely loyal are all traits that has enabled me to achieve success locally and internationally. My intellectual curiosity also drives me to be a lifelong learner. I am currently learning more ways to simplify shipping both locally and globally. My company slogan is ‘’Simplified Shipping Mechanism’’. We are expert in freight management. I love to write, travel, and inspire people. I will be sharing my walks, discoveries, and truths learned with you all.

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