Easing into automation



Dr. Oscar Pernia, director of product management automation, Navis, Oakland, California, United States


Container ports and terminals face the challenge of adapting to new technologies to improve service excellence and remain competitive. Quality of service is the driving factor that enables terminal operators to retain customers and attract new ones, and is based on four key operational pillars: vessel turn-around time; terminal operational cost; berth schedule reliability and operational control and visibility.
The use of automation at container ports and terminals in the form of process and equipment automation has become a practiced and accepted method to improve operational quality of service. As a result, container terminal automation is a growing global trend. In the last decade, container terminals in North America, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Oceania have built container terminals employing varying levels of automation. The main benefit is the ability to offset high labour costs with improved safety and more efficient movement of containers to and from a vessel and through the yard and gate.
We are currently experiencing an inflection point in this industry, and with the dramatic changes in operational requirements we need to find the next level of optimisation for terminal operations. Shipping lines are pushing the current boundaries for capacity and performance, proven by the introduction of 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) class mega-vessels as well as the vessel sharing agreement (P3 Alliance) between CMA, Maersk and MSC. These signal that times are changing. In order to remain competitive and provide the necessary service levels, terminals and carriers need tight cooperation and collaboration. In addition, the next generation of terminal operations needs to focus on profitability. As a result, the trade-off between service time, capacity and cost needs to be well driven. To achieve these goals,
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