Trends in Marine Terminal Automation



John Scott, Vice President, Container Terminal Solutions, Navis, Oakland, CA, US


An unpredictable economy and fluctuating container volumes are two key challenges marine terminal operators continue to navigate, creating new demands for efficiencies. These uncertainties have caused a renewed interest in process and equipment automation technologies as a path to increased efficiency. When deployed and integrated with the terminal operating system, these automation technologies can support and increase terminal capacity, optimize equipment utilization, and improve overall container handling performance in the terminal.

Process automation involves the integration of the TOS with third party hardware solutions that are utilized at the gate, in the yard and at the quay. Various forms of hardware including real time locating systems (RTLS), radio frequency identification (RFID), global positioning satellite (GPS), and ocular character recognition (OCR) can automate the tracking of vehicles and the movement of containers to and from the ships, within the yard, and in and out of the gate, providing real time data streams on asset identity, location and performance. When integrated with the terminal operating system, process automation technologies can improve the visibility of container and truck movements, to optimize asset allocation, automate the delivery of ‘next move’ information to the equipment driver, and ultimately increase the productivity of the terminal.

Since the late 1980s, the marine terminal industry has been supported by a growing range of expert information systems to coordinate and more recently automate the planning and management of container and equipment moves in a complex and demanding business environment.

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