Customs|International Transport

Terminal automation, an expanding process.

Port terminal automation in the era of globalization

Since the implementation of the first sea container (1956) until today, the evolution of the port sector has been remarkable. The use of new technologies and tools such as GPS, artificial intelligence, robotics or Big Data have encouraged this unprecedented transformation. In the particular case of port terminals, little by little, they have been applying systems to control processes and machinery based on the instrumentalization of data management or control of operations. This process of mechanisation has given rise to the so-called automatic terminals, which are playing an increasingly important role in the maritime world.

The first precedent for this type of installation in Europe took place in Rotterdam in 1993. In one of the terminals in the Dutch port, a revolutionary concept was introduced which made it possible to dispense with stevedores in the handling of containers, thereby reducing occupational risk and increasing productivity. Today, more than 60 ports of general interest have automated or semi-automated terminals, and there are more than 100 container terminal automation projects.

Automation in the port sector, linked to the phenomenon of economic globalisation, will mean a profound change of paradigm and that is why the important logistics operators, such as Operinter, are trying to anticipate this situation in order to face it in the best possible conditions.

Geographical areas

By region, Asia currently concentrates the largest number of terminals of this type, which are mainly located in Korea, China, Japan and Singapore.
The second area with more automated or semi-automated port terminals is Europe, mainly in the North (Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg and London).

In the Mediterranean region, the terminals in Italy, Spain (located in Algeciras and Barcelona) and Morocco (Tangier Med) are worth mentioning.
Finally in the American continent there are also this type of terminals in the United States, Mexico and Panama.

Positive aspects of terminal automation

-More predictable operational performance.
Less time for ships to scale, a fact that is especially noticeable when dealing with large container ships.
Increased operational and occupational safety.
-More efficient use of available space.
Lower maintenance costs, as problems can be anticipated, since activity data are available.

Negative factors

– A high initial investment must be made to carry out an automation process in a container port terminal.
-The difficulty of incorporating and training specialized operators who know how to operate such machinery.
-The complexity of monitoring all types of operations and equipment on a daily basis. In addition, there are currently no standards, both technological and operational for this type of terminal, so the integration of operational processes is low.

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