Container Terminal Automation: Pros & Cons



Neil Davidson, Senior Analyst: Ports & Terminals, Drewry, London, UK


Automation when used in the context of container terminals is a broad term and means different things to different people. To some, it is interpreted in a narrow sense, i.e. the replacement of human operation of equipment with autonomous computer control (‘robotisation’). However, besides robotisation there is a raft of other ‘automation’ which results in the replacement of human activity, for example optical character recognition replacing a checker with a piece of paper or a hand-held computer, manually recording container numbers. Beyond these aspects there are also many other applications of what should strictly speaking be termed ‘technology’ as opposed to ‘automation’, for example anti-sway systems in cranes.

Manual becomes automatic

Some types of “automation” have been in place for many years and now largely go unnoticed; for example, vessel planning and container stack inventory functions which were once manually done are now computerised in almost all terminals. Other types of automation…

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