Nov 2017

Port Automation: Container Handling of the Future - Available Now

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Kalmar and Navis recently announced the delivery of the first OneTerminal automation solution to International Container Terminal Services Incorporated (ICTSI) at the Port of Melbourne, Australia. That news brings to the commercial waterfront changes that can and will impact logistics, how the supply chain utilizes human resources, and additionally brings economies of scale to the global waterfront. But, first, the container shipping industry needs to wrap its arms around what it is that an ‘automated terminal’ entails.

According to Oscar Pernia, VP, Terminal Operational Innovation at Navis, within this solution, all of the container movements in the terminal are automated and remote controlled, from the moment when the container arrives at the terminal all the way to the point where the container is placed onboard a vessel and vice-versa. Pernia continues, “Since signing the contract in August 2014, Kalmar, Navis and VICT teams have worked hard to complete the project ahead of schedule and to the full satisfaction of the customer.”

Kalmar’s Project Director, Jyri Saarijoki laid out the timeline, saying, “The initial contract between VICT and Kalmar was signed in August 2014 and the end-to-end live equipment testing started in September 2016. Kalmar, Navis and VICT worked closely together during this time so this great result was achieved as a team effort.” In just two years, the world’s first fully automated container terminal came to life. Pre-integration played a significant role in completing the project ahead of schedule, allowing the team to make necessary adjustments to the system early in the process to ensure a smooth operation down the line.

Many portions of the system have been successfully implemented elsewhere, such as Trapac, DP World London Gateway and DP World Brisbane to name a few, however the VICT terminal in Melbourne is the first instance of implementing the Kalmar OneTerminal approach, with fully automated container handling operations.

In a nutshell, Kalmar OneTerminal provides an integrated automation solution, delivered by one team, bringing together Kalmar and Navis software systems, equipment and services for a seamless deployment. In this case, the deployment was completed ahead of schedule, making Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) the world’s first fully automated international container handling facility. Kalmar, is a part of Cargotec, and Navis, is part of the Kalmar Business Area within Cargotec. As one, they may have changed the box handling business forever.

The Future of Box Terminals: Here Today

Melbourne’s newest container terminal, VICT is located north of Port Phillip Bay at the mouth of the Yarra River in the Port of Melbourne’s Webb Dock East. The 35-hectare terminal has an annual capacity of one million plus twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), and an additional 400,000 TEUs on full build. VICT has a straight berth of 660 meters, which can accommodate two large vessels with capacities of up to 8,000 - 12,500 TEUs at once.

“VICT was designed, and is now equipped, to be fully automated, making it the most advanced container terminal in the world,” said Christian Gonzalez, VICT Chairman and SVP of ICTSI’s Asia Pacific Region,” adding, “We chose Kalmar’s cutting-edge technology and equipment and Navis’ software and it is enabling us to reach the highest standards of port safety. The project was completed on budget and ahead of schedule. This has never been achieved in the port industry for a fully automated terminal. It is especially noteworthy when considering the unprecedented complexity of the civil works requirements, along with the level of pioneering automation governing the design.”

The equipment that accompanies the new system is equally impressive. Kalmar’s OneTerminal deployment at VICT includes the Kalmar Automatic Stacking Crane (ASC) system with 20 ASCs, 11 Kalmar AutoShuttles, Kalmar Automated Truck Handling (ATH), Kalmar Terminal Logistics System (TLS) and the Navis N4 Terminal System. Additionally, Kalmar provided a range of project services required to deploy and support the solution.

Automation Defined

At VICT, containers are picked up and placed automatically to and from trucks, in the container stacks in the yard as well as in the waterside apron. Semi-automated/automated supervised quay crane operation handles the loading and discharge of the vessels. In addition, information flows, bookings, planning and yard equipment controls represent the state-of-the art automation.

Beyond equipment automation, processes such as container identification, twistlock-handling and landside operations are completely automatic, combining VICT’s truck appointment system, automatic gate and fully automated truck handling at yard transfer areas. From the perspective of the terminal operating system (N4), different components and interfaces help combine and unify the terminal ‘package,’ providing operational performance and business continuity as a result.

Within the terminal, the automated container handlers ‘talk’ to the system, communication is effected using a combination of wireless and optical fiber networks, where both work in unison. Oscar Pernia explains, “The integration and interaction between different software applications is key. For automated terminals, the value is not in a single platform, but rather the ability for multiple systems to work together seamlessly. Combined, the TOS and ECS are the ‘spinal cord’ and core foundation of automation, with other software modules connected to them. The interaction between them, and its support to operational processes, is conceived jointly between two companies who had to align development and testing processes. The result is a truly integrated solution.”

The project was, in truth a marriage of software and equipment to produce a turnkey solution. But, the cooperation between Navis and Kalmar as individual companies started many years ago. Kalmar’s Project Director, Jyri Saarijoki, explained the relationship, saying, “Cargotec acquired Navis in 2011, and the synergy potential was of course acknowledged before the acquisition. Development on OneTerminal began back in 2013, when we initiated a technology integration program, and the concept for the industry’s first integrated offering for automated terminals was launched in June 2015 at TOC Europe 2015. Since then, we have continued to develop our automation offering through a collaborative effort. The most recent addition to our joint offering is the OneTerminal software pre-integration product that we started to develop last year. VICT was the first customer who has benefited from this software pre-integration, and it contributed significantly to the fast delivery time of the deployment project.”

Future Economies: Labor & Safety

It is a little early to determine what the Project’s ultimate savings will be, but both Navis and Kalmar are studying the matter closely. According to Kalmar, the firm follows a simpli-fied P&L comparison (since 2015) to illustrate the difference in cost elements and overall profitability development between manual and automated terminals. Still, this data is based on Kalmar’s own estimation in a typical automated terminal and it does not (yet) reflect any data gathered from VICT.

Navis’ Pernia is nevertheless confident that the project will yield long term savings. “The value of automation in terms of operational performance and business continuity will bring more value in the areas of cost-per-move and revenue-permove. As VICT manages more volumes and becomes connected to more carriers, the economies of scale that will be generated will open new opportunities for efficiency and savings.”

Efficiencies are important. At the same time, safety was another primary driver in the decision to select this integrated and automated solution. Automation helps improve port safety by physically separating people from automated areas and thus reduces the possibilities of accidents. Instead of having people in the machines or moving about near the equipment, the workers are housed in a control room overseeing the operations. As the number of workers involved in the physical act of moving containers and operating heavy equipment is
reduced, the number of accidents reduces significantly. In fact, existing automated terminals have recorded significant reductions in the lost time injury index.

High Tech Nuts & Bolts

Kalmar OneTerminal provides an integrated automation solution, delivered by one team, bringing together Kalmar and Navis software systems, equipment and services for a seamless deployment. For VICT, the integrated solution consists of the Navis N4 Terminal Operating System, Kalmar TLS Terminal Logistics System, coupled with one of three terminal concepts: ASC, Auto-RTG or AutoStrad terminal.

At VICT the deployment included the Kalmar Automatic Stacking Crane (ASC) system with 20 ASCs, 11 Kalmar AutoShuttles, Kalmar Automated Truck Handling (ATH), Kalmar Terminal Logistics System (TLS) and the Navis N4 Terminal System. Additionally, Kalmar provided a range of project services required to deploy and support the solution.

On the ground, Kalmar’s TLS equipment control system ensures that the automated equipment and Navis N4 terminal operating system (TOS) work in harmony, conducting the right sequence while accommodating the exceptions that are typical in terminal operations. And, Kalmar TLS is able to interface with any type of system, thus integrating the automated equipment, process automation solutions and access control, safety and fault monitoring systems together.  It is also worth talking about the environmental footprint of the Kalmar hardware. At VICT, the deployment included fully electric Kalmar Automatic Stacking Crane (ASC) systems and 11 diesel-electric AutoShuttles.

OneTerminal: Beyond VICT

VICT was arguably the ideal place to test the OneTerminal concept. That said; Kalmar’s OneTerminal can be configured as an optimal solution for larger facilities. For smaller terminals, depending on the lay-out, equipment and software details, the system is also worth a look. That’s because smaller ports and terminals that lack the wherewithal to staff an in-house technical crew can also depend on Kalmar to provide a range of project services required to deploy and support the solution.

Kalmar provided professional services to support VICT through the testing for after-hours, variations to the scope, training on-the-job, productivity as well as optimization of the system. Beyond this, Kalmar Services furnished VICT with preventive maintenance and service of the equipment.

Looking still further ahead and afield, other terminal operators and ports will be watching the VICT case study closely for clues about what they can also do to add efficiencies to their own operations. For example, and as U.S. and North American ports struggle to cope with the reality of 20,000 TEU box-ships, a dozen variables come into play as those megaships come and go. Leveraging the Navis N4 Terminal Operating System to organize an adequate and properly deployed chassis pool and other previously stovepiped data into one smoothly running operation will be an attractive reason by itself for terminal operators to make a move towards the future.

In North America – and on the U.S. West Coast in particular – the removal of still more labor from the waterfront will pay dividends in not only a safer, less expensive and more efficient operation, but also one that is less exposed to work stoppages and slowdowns that have plagued the intermodal supply chain here for decades. Terminal operators and shippers alike have been looking for that kind of integrated solution for a long time. Looking for the container handling solution of the future? It’s here now.