Ports of Auckland suspends automated operations

A sunrise image from New Zealand

Ports of Auckland (POAL) has temporarily suspended its automated operations and reverted to manual operations following a safety incident on 17 June 2021, but claimed it is still committed to automating its processes.

At approximately 0300, a software fault resulted in a container which was being carried by an automated straddle hitting a stacked container.

POAL said at no stage were any people at risk thanks to the geofence safety system in the automated terminal. However, it also said it believes there could be a risk if the situation were to happen again.

“While this appears to be a very small possibility, we are not prepared to continue automated operations until that risk has been fully investigated and any necessary safety controls put in place,” POAL said in a statement.

“Given the supply chain problems globally and locally, we have decided, in the interests of the New Zealand importers and exporters, that until automated operations can be fully restored, we will increase the scale of our manual operation to​​ keep freight moving.

“The smaller automated area will still allow us to continue with system development and any necessary safety checks.” 

POAL insisted that it does not know how long it will take to make the necessary changes but that is working with overseas suppliers to get them in place as soon as possible. 

“We are committed to completing automation. Automation is important for the future, to provide the capacity Auckland needs for its continuing growth without the need to reclaim more harbour. 

“Automating a terminal while continuing to operate is complex and difficult. We always knew there would be challenges as we implemented the world’s first hybrid terminal, but we also know that the current problem will be overcome, and we look forward to fully automating the terminal in the future.”

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