Ports and especially container terminals handle a high proportion of the world’s cargo. The operations of ports and terminals has been brought to a high level of efficiency through heavy investment in such areas as materials handling equipment, and leading container terminals around the world now move goods faster than before.
But, like many established businesses in critical sectors, the container port sector is relatively conservative in its outlook. Even the most efficient container terminals are moving goods using methods that have been in place for many years. Operators have increased capacity by buying more equipment rather than considering new ways of handling cargo.
Now, though, container terminals are having to rethink their approach. The growth of container transport has created problems for ports and terminals. For instance, many container terminals are reaching their capacity limits and increasingly experiencing traffic and port congestion. Container terminal managers have several, often conflicting goals, such as to serve a container ship as fast as possible while minimising terminal equipment costs.
Innovative technolog ical solutions have been gaining more attention in recent years, such as employing Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and Automatic Stacking Cranes (ASCs) in container terminals. Recently, TTS Port Equipment in Gothenburg, Sweden has developed an optimised system for handling containers using cassettes and AGVs. The technology has been proven in the RoRo industry for over 25 years and a manual version has recently been implemented at APM Terminals’
new hub in Portsmouth, Virginia, USA. The cassettes are steel platforms that can be detachable from the C-AGV (in a fully automated system) or a translifter (in either a semi-automated or manual system) on which containers can be set upon for transporting. The containers can be double-stacked so that either two forty foot or four twenty foot containers can be moved.
This is possible since the cassettes are able to handle 80 tonnes (there are examples of 120 tonnes versions used in the steel industry). One of the advantage of using cassettes is their ability to act as a ‘floating’ buffer, since containers can be placed on it without a C-AGV or a translifter being attached. Thus, this decoupling feature helps C-AGVs to be more productive.