Ready for Automated Inspection



Francisco Grau Cavanillas, Business Manager, and Laura Rodríguez Romo, Project Manager, Orbita Ingenieria, Valencia, Spain


Process automation in container ports and terminals is still growing with new possibilities to boost efficiency and achieve safety and environmental goals. One of the objectives of automation is to achieve complete tracking and traceability of containers inside the terminal, along with being aware of their position and physical status as they move or stack within the terminal perimeter. One of the most demanded processes in the quest for automation is at the gate. Gate automation has proven to have a very high return of investment. It has provided terminals with a new vision of this key process, reducing access time, queues, manpower and optimising what was up until a few years ago a costly and often unreliable process. This concept has been extended to other terminal zones, such as ship-toshore (STS) cranes and cargo trains. For example, an increasing number of STS cranes are being fitted with cameras that capture images to be processed by an optical character recognition (OCR) system and other devices to improve operational efficiency. Trains entering or exiting a terminal area can also be processed with similar technologies to have their container load identified. The yard is now overflowing with technology for container location and identifying containers on the move, completing the circle of tracking and traceability. So it seems that we are halfway there. However, there are still much demanded functionalities to be developed in relation to process automation in terminals. One of the most remarkable is automated container inspection.

Automating container damage inspection

When the focus of terminals is set on moving containers faster and with high levels of efficiency, they must ensure that containers are not only moved in and out of the terminal quickly but also accurately and smoothly. Today container damage liability involves a complicated sequence of procedures to distinguish responsibility and associated costs. As stated by the marine specialised insurance company Swedish Club in its 2012 P&I Claims Analysis report, the average cargo claim cost since 2009 has fallen but the frequency has risen. As a result, the total claim costs have increased. We can assume that a number of cargo claims could be avoided by terminals by detecting defective containers proactively. If we look at the frequency and cost distributions published by Swedish Club in Figures 1, 2 & 3, the most common causes are physical damage and wet damage to the cargo. These problems could be prevented by detecting them at terminal accesses and thus …

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