Automation has been one of the maritime industry’s biggest technological trends of this generation and is a constant source of debate and analysis.
It has also inspired innovation as ports and terminals search for ways to carry more cargo while cutting emissions, utilize new technologies and at the same time assisting greater collaboration between stakeholders.
The Container Terminal Automation Conference (CTAC), one of Port Technology International’s (PTI) flagship events, has brought together terminals, stakeholders and technology solution providers to tackle these very issues.
Here, PTI has looked at the container terminal automation market, including exploring how the public debate has developed. We also give a glimpse of what to expect at CTAC 2020.
Is container terminal automation still booming?
Recent market research suggests that the industry continues to expand at a rapid pace.
The port equipment market is estimated to be worth approximately $36.6 billion by 2025, which would represent a compound growth of 3.3% since 2018.
This will be driven largely by growing global trade, in particular between Asia and North America, an outlook only emphasised by the recent thawing in trade relations between the US and China.
Unsurprisingly, China and the rest of the APAC region will grow the fastest while increasing its share, but Europe will remain the largest market.
Analysis also suggests that semi-automation is also set to grow by 4.4% over the coming years, suggesting that even where full-automation isn’t being utilized, ports and terminals are still searching for automated solutions.
This increase has been attributed to the increase in greenfield projects in the APAC region, which in turn demand very high volumes of new automated port equipment.
The above mentioned increase in goods being shipped necessitates the demand for new ports.
It also requires new innovations and a reappraisal of how terminals automate and operate within the wider industrial environment.
The conversation around container automation is far more nuanced than it once was. Technology has advanced to connect the terminal to the wider industrial environment and digital ecosystem.
New hurdles have appeared, such as how to make operations environmentally friendly, and old ones have not gone away, including concerns about the role of workers.
These are just a handful of the many topics and trends that will be analysed and debated by world’s leading experts in ports and terminals during CTAC 2020.
At CTAC 2019, Dr Yvo Saanen, Director at TBA, spoke to PTI about what he considered to be the biggest talking points.
One such trend was retrofitting, where automated technology is applied to already existing terminals.
“In the past, automation was linked to greenfield sites, we now see more and more terminals looking at ‘how can we apply technology that is maturing, in our operations to make it safer, more sustainable and more productive,” Saanen said.
One of the key topics of conversation at CTAC19 was how terminals can automate their operations success and a big part of that was the debate between automated and semi-automated processes.
This emphasis on combining automated technologies and the expertise of people has probably been the biggest trend in the industry in recent times.
CTAC 2020 will follow on from these discussions and look at the potential hurdles terminals are faced with when implementing automation and how these can be overcome.
As well as process and port equipment, it will also include an analysis of smart technology solutions, such as a terminal operating system (TOS) and how it can be successfully implemented into day-to-day operations and beyond.
There will also be case studies on some of the most innovative projects in the ports and terminals industry, including BOXBAY, and how best to utilize the mountains of big data terminals accumulate.