Automation for Brownfield Terminals



Elmar Hendriks, director for terminal development and automation, Kalmar, Finland


Automating a greenfield (newly built) terminal from scratch is often what comes to mind when discussing automated terminals. However, existing (brownfield) terminals can be automated partially or wholly to achieve the benefits of automation. At brownfield terminals, the transition to automated operation is carried out step by step in different areas of the terminal to avoid loss of capacity. Automation can also be implemented by expanding the terminal to an unused area.

No matter what the approach, the project requires thorough analysis and terminal layout planning. Numerous technology and equipment combinations are available and these need to be studied carefully in order to identify the best choice for the operator. Solutions include automated stacking cranes (ASC) with manned or automated shuttle carriers for horizontal transport; ASCs and automated guided vehicles (AGV); fully automated straddle carrier terminals; automated rubber-tyred (RTG) with automated shuttles; and various combinations of the above.

Driven by business needs

Terminal and process automation are recognised as the next steps towards improving productivity and performance at today's container terminals. Automation has been steadily gaining ground over the last decades, driven by numerous industry trends.

On the one hand, terminals need to utilise their existing equipment, resources and space to maximum capacity, and every incremental improvement adds up to massive savings over the course of a fiscal year. On the other hand, qualified labour can be hard to obtain, and safety issues as well as human factors often restrict the performance of terminal equipment from its full capacity. The latest supersized container ships place additional competitive pressure on terminal operators to maximise throughput and minimise turnaround times.

Evolution by design

The history of container terminal automation extends back some 20 years. The world's first automated terminal was ECT Delta in the Netherlands, operational since the early 1990s. The terminal is based on the AGV concept with automated stacking cranes. The container stack follows the typical European layout of being perpendicular to the quayside. Each STS crane is served by four AGVs, and the handover is a coupled process taking place under the STS crane legs. A single ASC serves each block

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