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Roadrunner • Jan 22, 2009

Unpaved container terminal & road (third world conditions)

Hi all!

I wonder how feasible it would be to run a container terminal without paving the ground. Also, I wonder how a badly constructed unpaved road could be temporarily repaired in a simple and cheap way.

The low budget solutions are necessary because the location is a poor country in Africa. The inland container terminal would be economically motivated by the fact that in one direction there are mountains and then a seaport. Many trucks can't take more than one shipping container each on the roller coaster like mountain road in order to keep down wear and tear on the pneumatics, breaks et cetera. In the other direction lies the vast flat inland, where trucks should take two containers each in order to save fuel consumption per ton cargo moved. So there is a need for a container terminal (essentially a forklift) where containers can be reloaded between trucks.

But traffic volume is not big enough to finance the concrete pavement which forklifts normally operate upon. I wonder if it could be at all sensible to run a forklift, and put containers, on the bare unpaved ground? The containers would sink into the ground somewhat, so they need to be grabbed from the top, as with a "stacker"-lift (without necessarily having "stacking" ability) rather than from below as with a fork-lift. The ground could be dug up manually a meter deep or so, and compacted with a smaller compactor or ramming machine. This could be done quite cheaply. And as the ground is damaged, it could be manually repaired in a similar way, even on a daily bases! But even if the stability of the ground thus could be made satsifactory, won't the forklift (or stacker lift) and trucks tear through the soft surface every move they make? And during the rainy months operations might be canceled altogether.

Is it reasonable to continuously perform temporary manual repairs of an upaved low-traffic container terminal?

On a similiar note, I wonder if an unpaved road, with amazingly many and large holes in it, could be continuously repaired in a similiar way? Gravel in the bottom of the holes, sand on top and a compactor to stabilize it somewhat. Could a reparation team go up and down the road to keep it in acceptable shape? It could be done with a small budget, whereas construction of a new road would be unthinkably expensive.

These improvements in infrastructure, if feasible, would reduce transportation costs considerably and stimulate trade in a devastatingly poor region with several million inhabitants.

Grateful for any input!

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