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Container Lifting

How To Choose The Right Container Handling Equipment

5 reasons not to choose traditional equipment

Bison Group

29 Jun 3 Minutes

Lifting, Logistics


For some container shipping operations, using a straddle carrier, heavy forklift or a similar machine to handle your containers can be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Here are the top 5 reasons why you may not need heavy container handling equipment (CHE):

  • You only handle low volumes of containers each day or week.
  • The containers are being processed in one place at your facility, so you don't need to move them around or stack them.
  • You have limited space at your site, so not enough room for traditional container handling equipment to operate.
  • The ground surface at your plant isn't reinforced, so it cannot handle the ground load of these heavy machines.
  • These are just some of the reasons why CHE may not make sense for your site.
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CHEs typically run from $US250,000 up to a million, which is a huge capital outlay for a small or medium-sized operation.

But in addition to the initial sticker shock of traditional container handling equipment, you need to consider the total cost of ownership.

  • The high maintenance costs - especially tyres and parts
  • The cost of training and certifying operators
  • The cost of hiring a trained and certified operator
  • The cost of reinforcing the site surface for the CHE to operate on
  • Fuel

Taken together, the operating cost of a typical reach stacker, top loader, or mini straddle carrier, runs many thousands of dollars a year - depending on the number of containers moved, and the exact terms of the service agreement.

This can be partially offset by the residual value of the CHE, which can be re-sold on the second-hand market.

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However, you could still benefit from getting a container on the ground.

Container hoists are a relatively new alternative, filling the gap in the market for operations like this - where you'd like to stuff or strip the container on the ground, but you don't want or need a giant machine on site to handle them.

There are a range of equipment combinations and price options for sites handling only a few containers per month up to 30 per day.

For these higher throughput operations, Bison's A Series C-Lifts are a good choice. There are mobile and permanent hoist options. The mobile system is easily relocated and set up, so you can place containers weighing up to 32 tonne (70,000 lb) in different locations. The permanent hoists are bolted to the ground, in a dedicated container un/load area, reducing setup time and speeding up throughput.

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Rather than thinking about the functionality of a single machine, it pays to think about equipment combinations.

One option, for example, is a Bison C-Lift and a forklift. With the C-Lift you can lift fully loaded containers on or off a chassis for processing at ground level. And with the lighter weight forklift you can move the empty container in or out of the un/load area and lift the empty between the ground and the chassis.

Another combination that works well for operators with a regular flow of containers is having two permanent C-Lifts on one site. An exporter, for example, might receive an empty container from port, and have the same truck collect a full container from the other loading area - shuttling empties in, and hauling full containers out of the site on an ongoing basis. Here's an example of a fruit export coolstore doing exactly that.


For smaller and medium-sized operators, choosing a reach stacker, top loader, or mini straddle carrier is not only paying for something you don’t need, it is saddling yourself with costly service agreements and operating costs for years to come.

Fortunately, for these operators, Bison C-Lifts are less costly alternatives to traditional container handling equipment that still offer superlative lifting capacity.