The annual container terminal volume has steadily increased in the last few decades, pushing terminal utilisation rates up to their limits of efficiency. The scarcity of land available for port expansion and the high investment costs associated with development call for a careful assessment of the decision-making strategies for financing investments in maritime container terminals. “Port managers are looking for more efficient and cost-effective container handling means, while still trying to introduce innovative technical solutions,” says Jesús Pablo González, coordinator of the EU-funded LOGIMATIC project. “In the meantime, the average size of container ships in operation has doubled.” This has negatively impacted terminal operators’ working conditions, increasing stress and strain, and forcing the regular upgrading of port infrastructure, especially for small and midsize ports.
Towards smart port vehicle management
“Automated and semi-autonomous container handling equipment represents a great opportunity for ports with limited space,” adds González. This is because it improves terminal efficiency, but also because it reduces burden and increases safety by empowering the workforce with more efficient resources to operate. The project team has developed an advanced localisation and navigation solution based on a combination of Europe’s global navigation satellite system (GNSS) and robotics technologies. Use of global navigation satellite systems and on-board sensors provides a continuous, reliable and accurate estimation of the position and velocity of platforms. The LOGIMATIC innovation is integrated in port vehicles as part of an on-board navigation unit that communicates with a centralised geographic information system (GIS)-based monitoring system to supervise and manage a port’s entire fleet. Connected to all port vehicles via a wireless network the system receives the current position of a platform and real-time progress on daily tasks. This solution is augmented by Galileo – Europe’s single largest satellite constellation – and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service to improve its accuracy and integrity throughout operations. The technology speeds up tasks, enabling resource and space optimisation, and allowing extended and safer operations. Project partners have implemented a security mechanism for cyberattacks. It detects when the localisation service is being interfered with by an external source that threatens the safe operations of port vehicles.
Competitive advantages of automating container terminals
Machinery manufacturers, system integrators and engineering companies now have at their disposal an alternative solution to vehicle modifications through a system of sensors combined with interactive electronic systems like global positioning systems. For container terminal operators, LOGIMATIC contributes to transforming manual straddle carriers into automated ones through a system of developed localisation and navigation algorithms combined with global navigation satellite constellations. The fleet management solution updates port services, minimises total travel distance, and eliminates the loss of time and valuable resources. The terminal operation system services provided by LOGIMATIC make better use of port assets, labour and equipment. In addition, a more effective workload plan and up-to-the-minute information are among the main benefits, thus enabling cost-effective decision-making. “LOGIMATIC solutions for automating port vehicles will minimise terminal congestion and capacity issues, improve working conditions, boost operational efficiency, increase productivity and task accuracy while reducing on-the-job errors,” concludes González. “They will also result in faster straddle carrier cycle times and lower operation costs.”
LOGIMATIC, port vehicle, container terminal, ports, straddle carrier, container handling, GIS