Container Terminal Automation Competition Going On.
As competition intensifies among terminals, demand is increasing for container terminal automation in order to secure competitiveness for terminals. And terminal automation can be realized not only for terminals that have adopted automated container handling equipment (CHE) but also for those that are using conventional CHE. In this article, we are going to give a quick look at the background to the development of terminal automation, and then, we’ll check the role of the system in the terminals that have adopted automated and conventional CHE, respectively.
Terminal automation: from a terminal marketing tool into a competitive element
Despite numerous attempts made for last half-century after the arrival of quay crane and RTG designed for container terminal operation, container terminal operation remains nearly the same as it was then. But, one single word that represents the most important change to container terminal operation is perhaps ‘automation’. The automation of container terminals, which was led by several technical pioneers, focused on mechanical automation designed for unmanned operation of giant machines and horizontal transports, and newly adopted advanced technology has served a major marketing tool for newly opening terminals. Today, however, competition seems to be starting in container terminal automation.
Various initiatives in automated terminals
Technologically speaking, it is believed that the standard for terminal automation which adopted perpendicularly arranged blocks and used ASC and AGV was created through the two attempts at ECT (1991) and CTA (2001). In fact, automation is diversifying into such types as the automation using a straddle carrier, application of a shuttle carrier that replaces AGV, the automation of RMG and RTG, and the automation of STS container cranes. The high labor cost in advanced countries was a major rationale for introducing the automation but nowadays, the type and level of automation are decided while taking into consideration a variety of factors such as the status of other terminals that compete in the same area, the size of transshipment cargo, invested fund, and operating costs during a life cycle.
Improvement of TOS is necessary to enhance the usability of automated CHE
While a lot of CHE manufacturers are lately releasing automated CHE that boasts advanced features in response to the changing conditions, there also exist barriers to entry that are detrimental to market penetration. It’s because adopting automated CHE does not mean simply acquiring an automated machine that replaces manual CHE. While conventional operation may rely on a driver’s manual reporting of job confirmation with terminal operating system (TOS) playing the key role, applying automated CHE requires TOS and automated CHE to automate driver action process through M2M (machine to machine). In other words, one has to create a broader terminal operating system that organically combines TOS and automated CHE, which needs to diversify infrastructure including industrial wireless network. Things become more complicated, especially if expanding an existing conventional terminal adds automated CHE or if automated CHE and manual CHE are mixed in operation as when a new terminal automates yard crane only. It is because automated CHE that can be controlled by a system behaves differently from CHE that is driven by a human who has free will.
Expanding control system for supplementing TOS functions
In adapting to the development, TOS providers have put in a lot of effort to improve functions and have racked up some achievements. However, since even those experienced leading TOS market players are not able to single-handedly conduct automation equipment monitoring and all of the control features owing to the system architecture of TOS, they perform an automated terminal project through third control systems such as TBA’s TEAMS and CyberLogitec’s Eagle Eye that functionally combine excellently with TOS.
Realizing terminal automation by using conventional CHE which includes PDS
And container terminal automation is not possible only through the adoption of unmanned CHE. It is a highly meaningful method of automation that at once contributes to the social value of job creation to realize process automation by adding PDS (position determination system) to a new or existing conventional CHE instead of acquiring very costly automated CHE in planning the automation of new terminals or existing conventional terminals. It can get the same visibility as when automated CHE is acquired by not only preventing mis-operation due to a user’s mistake or delayed job completion date through automating container hand-off process with PDS, but also having the system actively guide a driver through VMT in accordance with pre-defined process and actively intervene to solve problems.
As various automated CHE and concepts for their operation are presented for container terminal automation, market players are competing more and more intensively to fulfill terminal operators’ mission, which consists in cost saving, productivity improvement, safer operation, and social contribution.