A modern container terminal needs an interface between the Terminal Operating System (TOS) and the crane control system onboard the cranes. If the terminal includes fully automatic cranes, it is an absolute necessity to be able to send work orders directly from the TOS to the cranes. Moreover, for cranes with semi-automation, where the automatic cycle is started and supervised by the operator onboard the crane, it is convenient with a direct interface with the TOS. The alternative is that the operator manually has to type in the target coordinates or input the target via a touch screen. Even for manual cranes, it could be useful to have an interface with the crane control system to be able to present work orders to the operator on the screens in the operator’s cabin, which are nonetheless needed to control the crane.
Due to the large variety of terminal operating systems on the market, ABB has developed a special protocol – ABB Application Layer Protocol – to simplify the interface. This protocol handles communications between the TOS and the crane control system. The ABB protocol is based on the internet concept and acts as an application layer on top of TCP/IP or UDP/IP. In the protocol, the message format is defined and different standard messages are used to send information to the crane or to request information from the crane. On the crane, the messages are translated and communicated to the crane controller. Messages that can be sent are, for example:
- Crane set-up messages, such as ‘Crane on’ and ‘Automatic mode’
- Work orders, such as ‘Pick up from chassis’
- Crane status reports, such as ‘Job done’ or ‘Ready to receive orders’
- Crane position reports, such as ‘Gantry position’