Cutting costs in the back yard

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					CS Sept06 p34-35       25/8/06      15:42     Page 34

     Yard automation

     Cutting costs in the back yard
     With legal measures to support                                                                                                     Hong Kong
     moves towards unmanned terminal                                                                                                    Terminals
                                                                                                                                        6+7 runs
     operations, US ports are bringing in                                                                                               automated yard
     new technology, writes Kent Busk
     UNTIL RECENTLY, ONLY                      labour agreement changes that
     European terminal operators               were achieved during the last
     have experimented with                    West Coast contract
     unmanning handling equipment              negotiations, US terminal
     through the use of automation.            operators are now –               deliveries with substantially      on the same principles and
         Recently, however, US                 contractually – able to           shortened turnarounds. It also     technology as the fully
     terminals have started showing            introduce various levels of       permits the use of unmanned        automated ECT operation.
     interest in implementing                  automation, and make system       handling equipment.                   The forthcoming ECT-
     various types of automation that          enhancements through the use           By implementing such          operated Euromax terminal in
     potentially could reduce the size         of new technology to reduce       technologies, US labour            Rotterdam, which is currently
     of the existing labour force now          manning levels and improve        efficiency could be increased to   under development, is also
     required and increase the                 operational efficiency.           double the efficiency of what is   opting for the unmanned
     intensity of container yard use.             But what, exactly, is meant    achieved in current RTG            RMGs and AGVs.
         Since the inception of                and understood by the term        operations.                            In a separate development,
     containers as part of port                “automation”?                          Over the last decade,         Kalmar and Patrick have been
     activities, US terminals have                 Firstly, it is the use of     multiple forms of unmanning by     experimenting with unmanned
     been content to accept low                advanced IT systems. By           the means of automation were       straddle carriers in Brisbane,
     labour productivities, which              implementing more intelligent     introduced.                        Australia. Currently, the
     today are as little as 50% of the         IT systems in existing manned          Thamesport in the UK,         unmanned straddle carrier
     level achieved by European and            terminal operations, labour and   Hutchison’s Hong Kong              system is being implemented
     Asian terminals when measured             equipment efficiency can be       International Terminals (HIT)      and tested in a larger scale
     by labour hours-per-container             increased by about 20%, and       6+7, and Pasir Panjang in          operation. When fully
     throughput.                               container stacking density by a   Singapore, all went for            developed, it is likely to be one
         The underpinning reasons              further 20% or more.              automated yard cranes.             of the most cost-efficient modes
     for this are the stipulations in              Secondly, the use of          Meanwhile, Rotterdam’s major       of operation, with only minor
     the longshore labour                      advanced IT systems enables       operator, ECT, famously opted      up-front investments and a
     agreements that force US                  the pooling of trucks and yard    for unmanned yard cranes and       short implementation period.
     terminal operators to man                 cranes, real-time grounding,      transportation vehicles at its         However, not all terminal
     terminal activities at levels             advanced grounding and            Delta terminal on the              operators will be able to
     much greater than is practised            stacking strategies, and pre-     Maasvlakte. Since early 2000,      implement fully unmanned
     elsewhere. However, with the              scheduling pick-ups and           Wan-Hai, has aimed for             operations. There are a number
                                                                                 manned trucks transporting         of reason for this, including the
                                                                                 containers to and from the         requirement for high waterside
                                                                                 automated cantilevered RMGs        productivity, physical space
                                                                                 at its Japanese terminal near      constraints, and restrictive work
                                                                                 Tokyo – the same type of           practices. Terminal operators
                                                                                 automation found at Pasir          also often fear union resistance
                                                                                 Panjang and HIT.                   to changes that adversely affect
                                                                                                                    job security.
                                                                                                                        HHLA’s Container Terminal
                                                                                 In 2002, Hamburg’s CTA,            Burchardkai (CTB) in
                                                                                 operated by HHLA,                  Hamburg, and DP World’s
                                                                                 implemented unmanned RMGs          Antwerp Gateway Terminal
                                                                                 – serving at the end – and cost-   have, due to operational
                                                                                 efficient unmanned                 constraints and physical
                                                                                 automatically guided vehicles      boundaries, opted for manned
     Kalmar and Patrick have developed an unmanned SC operation in Brisbane      (AGVs). The terminal was built     mini-straddle carriers (mini-SC)
     34 Cargo Systems September/06                                                                                  
CS Sept06 p34-35     25/8/06    15:42    Page 35

                                                                                                                        Yard automation

     on the waterside, and
     unmanned RMGs in the yard.
     The cost savings achieved are,
     according to our calculations,
     significantly less than what
     could be achieved by unmanned
     RMGs and AGVs. The reason
     is the labour required to operate
     the manned mini-SCs.
          By and large, the overall
     capital cost for unmanned
     RMGs combined with manned
     mini-SCs is roughly equal to
     unmanned RMGs combined
     with AGVs.
          While straddle carriers have   DP World is planning to operate manned mini-straddle carriers and unmanned RMGs at Antwerp Gateway Terminal
     an average 70% higher cost per
     unit than AGVs, fewer units are     than the largest RTGs (1+6               savings and performance                    be valuable on the west coast,
     required to run the operation       high, 1+7 wide). At the very             enhancements for terminal                  with its rapidly-increasing Asian
     and thus the overall payout is      least, the stacking capacity             operators, automation also                 trade and limited options for
     roughly the same. Additionally,     could be as much as 30%                  provides considerable benefits to          development of new facilities.
     it ought to be noted that this      higher.                                  US port authorities to achieve                 However, considering the
     includes the cost of the IT             Compared with the manned             much higher utilisation of                 strength of union influence in
     system – which is around            RTG operation, the higher yard           existing port land through the             US terminal operations, it is not
     US$25m (plus/minus $5m) –           density will not add cost to the         densification of container                 realistic to expect fully
     despite the fact some savings on    operations, since all                    operations.                                automated terminals to be built
     IT expenditure would be made        housekeeping and shuffling                    The high manning                      in the first automation surge in
     by employing manned straddle        moves are done automatically.            requirements and escalating pay            the country. What is clear,
     carriers.                           The automated, cantilevered              schemes at US ports currently              however, is that terminal
                                         RMGs are therefore able to add           make it uneconomic for terminal            designers should include future
                                         significantly more volume                operators to perform gate and              full-automation in the up-front
     In contrast to European             through higher storage density           rail operations outside the day            planning to ensure that it – and
     terminals, US operators would       with a limited cost increase.            shifts. The significant reduction          cost-efficient operations – are
     potentially make a huge cost            Additionally, the extra capital      in labour hours per container              not blocked in the future.
     saving in introducing unmanned      investment in the terminal, such         that results from the use of                   Is it feasible to expect
     RMGs and manned mini-SCs.           as stronger yard paving to take          automated systems make gate                automation in US terminals?
     The reason is the current           the increased loads, is marginal,        and rail intermodal activities             Seaport’s answer is “Yes”, and
     manning requirements forcing        certainly if that investment is          during evening, night and                  we encourage operators to
     operators to man in excess of       calculated per container handled.        weekend shifts economically                investigate the benefits of
     what is required. Current               However, it is not only              feasible for the operator and              integrating and implementing
     calculations put this as high as    through high investment in               enable port authorities to take            automation strategies. This is
     $50-$70 per teu handled.            unmanned handling equipment              advantage of the untapped                  evidenced as much by the fact
         Nonetheless, not all US         that US operators are able to            potential in increasing quay               that the first semi-automated
     operators are able to implement     achieve significant cost savings.        utilisation. Quay utilisation              operation will shortly be
     unmanned RMGs combined                  As one of the architects             (containers over the quay wall) is         commissioned at a US port, as
     with mini-SCs – either due to       behind the first semi-automated          up to 3,000teu/metre per year in           well as by the strong
     terminal size or limited            terminal in the US, it is our            China and Hong Kong,                       commercial and operational
     volumes. Instead, those             experience that there are                1,800teu/metre per year in                 arguments for it. s
     operators could benefit from        potential savings of 20-30% by           Europe, and approximately
     implementing automated high         intelligent redesign of work             1,200teu/metre per year in the             Kent Busk is owner of Seaport
     stacking cantilever-RMGs            processes, as well as the                US.                                        Innovations and member of Seaport
     served by manned trucks, as         introduction of various IT                    With higher yard stacking             Group that specialises in terminal
     seen at HIT 6 and 7.                systems for such functions as            densities and higher quay                  design and technology, port project
         With automated 1+6 high,        planning and dispatching of              utilisations, the capacity of US           planning, port management and
     14 wide RMGs – the                  transport between the rail and           ports could increase by as much            economic feasibility studies. He is
     configuration currently in          yard; chassis handling; planning         as 100% without significant                participating in the design and
     operation at Wan Hai’s Tokyo        of yard, vessel and rail;                additional investments in port             planning of the first semi-automated
     facility – the achievable yard      roadability checks; chassis and          infrastructure and additional              terminal to be built in the US, as
     stacking density (teu per sq        gen-set handling.                        port lands. This increase in land          well as designing and optimising
     metre) is significantly higher          In addition to potential cost        productivity would particularly            container operations worldwide.                                                                                              September/06 Cargo Systems 35