Asia to Witness Container Terminal Automation Boom

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

April 29, 2019

Source: Containerisation international yearbook, Drewry and Google maps

Source: Containerisation international yearbook, Drewry and Google maps

Kalmar Automation Solutions said that the share of automated terminals will grow rapidly  in Asia, given the terminal operators’ interest and activity level towards automation.

Container terminal automation in Asia is in an early stage, except for Australia. First automated mega-terminals are in operation and future growth depends on many external issues. In general, Rubber-Tyred Gantry crane (RTG) is the main handling system for containers globally, and that applies in Asia as well.

RTG is used in 60% of the main container handling systems for 420 main terminals in Asia. However, when counting the number of container moves completed in different terminals, RMGs/ASCs dominate. This is because the big container terminals use RMGs/ASCs but in general, they are a minority. If one counts the number of automated or semi-automated terminals (RTG, ASC, SC, and AGV) in Asia, there are maybe around 20…25 of those, which is about 5% of all terminals included in the analysis.

In Asia, RTGs dominate the terminals in the mainland countries.  RTG automation is coming slowly but reference cases in some countries already exist. One can expect that automated RTGs would dominate the markets in a few years’ time.

In Japan there are terminals that use also straddle carriers in addition to RTGs. All these are currently manually operated. In Australia and New Zealand, the automated solutions start to be an industrial must. Automatic stacking cranes and automated straddle carriers dominate the market.

When looking at China in particular, the number of automated terminals is growing and industrial benchmark cases are there but the number of the automated terminals is still limited. It is hard but not impossible to estimate the growth rate as the projects take years to develop and needed investments are big. Any changes in the global economy will have an impact on decision making for automation investments.

"The interest in automation is high in Asia and from that perspective we can expect to see quite high growth numbers. In addition to RTG automation the focus is on horizontal transportation between quay cranes and container stack. There fully electric fast charge and automated solutions are currently in focus," said Ismo Matinlauri, Vice President, Solution Sales APAC, Kalmar Automation Solutions.

In Asia, less than 5% of container terminals are currently automated. "Looking at the terminal operators’ interest and activity level towards automation, we can expect that the share of automated terminals will grow rapidly also in Asia as we move towards the year 2060," he added.

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