Uno Bryfors of ABB speaks about how automation helps container terminals to meet the challenges implicit with handling larger ships and bigger container volumes.
In a changing port and terminals climate, Mr Bryfors describes how operators can countenance contemporary challenges.
We are supplying electrical equipment and automation to the crane industry and to terminals all over the world. 2008/2009 was really a lesson to the whole industry. We saw the end of the big volume increase in the container handling and we went from 10-12% growth down to 4-5% growth today, which is really quite good.
It happened through a real slump in the business but also a rather quick recovery. Now what we see today is we have gone from real volume growth to building efficiency and productivity into the industry.
The challenges facing the terminals due to the mega-ships coming into operation now is the volume; as such we need much higher productivity on the berth to service these and at least 500 TEU to be moved per hour, maybe 800-900 even, but this is manageable.
The next challenge is to have the stacking capacity for all of these containers when we have really big calls, maybe as much as 10,000-20,000 TEU in one call has to be handled. Another, and maybe the biggest challenge is that the number of ships is coming down. Automation is the basis for increasing the efficiency of the terminals.
Automation is automatic hand-offs, automatic cranes, automatic vehicles and also automatic hand-offs between all these means of handling the container, but with that comes automatic hand-off of correct information between all these equipments, all the way from the ship to the gate and rail, and the way back again to the ship.
But also what we see with this, the next step, we now achieve is when we have the automated equipment remotely controlled equipment, we have remotely controlled desks for being able to handle all types of cranes; we can run ship-to-shore cranes, stacking cranes, rail cranes, really all kinds of cranes with ease but also bringing in all exception handling in the terminal and also bringing in the logistics and the maintenance, bringing all of this to a central control room, today container terminals have to optimise their operations thats the only way to increase the cost and stay competitive.
The competitive environment is going to get much tougher due to the bigger ships and so on. Either you get a call or you don't get it and the impact is very very big, and with this we can also at the same time, when we are optimising we can reduce the impact to the environment, we are much more energy efficient in an operation that is smooth and continuous. We are also making the terminals safer with automation and optimisation, we bring people in and we don't expose them to hazardous environments out in the terminal, and this all in all makes a much more efficient operation.
With automation and centralisation of staff in the terminal, we are also greatly improving the working environment for the staff. It's a huge difference sitting on a crane looking down 50 metres and doing it for hours or being in a working environment like the one behind me in a desk that you can adjust, you can sit and stand and you can at any time change your duties with one of your colleagues and you can work in a real team. Now we are working to make the terminals safer, greener, and more productive and this is for small and big terminals.
The automation that we are having today is first coming into the big terminals when we also see it spreading over the world to much smaller terminals and today even the medium-sized and small terminals are facing the challenge of much bigger ships and the need to improve and they are getting much more cost-efficient.