Container terminal automation comes to Asia

COSCO France berthed at QQCTN. Source: Xinhua

The very first fully automated container terminal in Asia – Qingdao New Qianwan Container Terminal (QQCTN) – was officially put into operation last Thursday, 11 May 2017, by handling its first containership COSCO France of 13,386 TEU capacity.

The automated phase 4 of the Port of Qingdao in East China’s Shandong Province has the designed capacity of 5.2 mln TEU and can accommodate the world’s largest containerships of up to 24,000 TEU capacity along its 6 berths of total 2,088m long. The terminal is part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

Currently it operates with seven STS cranes operated by remote control, 38 automated stacking cranes (ASCs) and 38 battery-powered automated guided vehicles (AGVs).

Yang Jiemin, who is in charge of the terminal’s technological support, comments: “It’s all controlled by artificial intelligence. AGVs are programmed with routes and tasks and even recognise when a recharge is needed. Through laser scanning and positioning, the program is able to locate the four corners of each container. It then accurately grabs and puts them onto the AGVs, driverless trucks. That’s why we are able to work in complete darkness.”

According to Zhang Liangang, QQCTN General Manager, the ability to work at night has increased the terminal’s efficiency by 30%. Besides, labor costs have been reduced by 70%: the automatic port requires only 9 workers to unload a cargo ship, whereas previously it used to take about 60.

The new facility was constructed within just three years. Cheng Xinnong, President of Qingdao Port Group, says that before this project, the world’s fastest construction took some 10 years to complete, but the market trends have changed since then. “The three-year time-span significantly reduces the risk for investment, which makes it feasible to replicate in other cities,” he added.

At present, China is building a similar terminal in Shanghai, as per Chinese media.

QQCTN is a joint venture between Qingdao Port Group, DP World, Cosco Group, A. P. Moller-Maersk Group and Pan Asia International Shipping.

Julia Louppova:
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