| Written by Mark Buzinkay

Human errors occur: every human movement in a container yard is a potential incident. Consequently, automating services is not only a reasonable approach to maximize safety, but guarantees continuous crane operation.

This article aims to shed light on the safety challenges faced in container terminals and their profound impact on productivity and profitability.

real-time reefer information

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Safety is paramount

Container terminals serve as critical hubs for global trade, facilitating the movement of goods across vast distances. However, with the ever-increasing demands and complexities of the industry, ensuring safety within these terminals, particularly concerning reefers (refrigerated containers), is of paramount importance.

Container Terminals are hazardous places (1): Dockers may be dealing with a variety of vessels, people and weather under the pressure of a tight timetable. These ever-changing circumstances lead to ever-changing risks.

By addressing personnel safety, accident prevention, harsh environmental conditions, fatigue management, and the potential of remote monitoring through automated reefer monitoring, terminal managers and directors can implement effective strategies to safeguard both their workforce and their bottom line.

Personnel Safety

Ensuring the safety of personnel working in container terminals is a top priority. Hazards such as heavy machinery, moving vehicles, and uneven surfaces pose significant risks. According to a study published in the Journal of Safety Research in 2019, titled "Risk Factors and Safety Measures for Terminal Operations in Container Terminals," implementing comprehensive safety training programs, promoting a safety culture, and utilizing advanced technologies like proximity sensors and warning systems significantly reduce accidents and injuries. The chart below illustrates the impact of safety measures on incident rates in container terminals.

Accident Avoidance

Accidents in container terminals can result in severe consequences, including injuries, damage to equipment and cargo, and disruptions to operations. To mitigate these risks, adopting proactive accident prevention measures is crucial. The implementation of automated systems, such as collision detection and alarm systems, as highlighted in a study conducted by the Transportation Research Board in 2021 titled "Enhancing Safety in Container Terminals Through Automation," has shown a significant reduction in accident rates. The chart below demonstrates the correlation between the adoption of automated accident prevention technologies and accident frequency.

Harsh Environment Conditions

Container terminals often face adverse weather conditions, including extreme temperatures, high winds, and heavy rainfall. These conditions not only jeopardize worker safety but also affect the integrity of reefers and the quality of perishable goods. The utilization of weather monitoring systems, as indicated in a report by the International Journal of Production Research in 2022, titled "Enhancing Safety and Efficiency in Container Terminals," enables terminal operators to anticipate and respond to harsh environmental conditions promptly. The chart below showcases the relationship between weather monitoring and reduced reefer malfunctions.

Fatigue Management

Fatigue among terminal workers poses a significant safety risk, as tired employees are more prone to errors and accidents. To address this challenge, the implementation of fatigue management strategies is crucial. Studies have shown that incorporating regular rest breaks, optimizing shift schedules, and utilizing fatigue monitoring technologies, as highlighted in a research article published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2020, titled "Fatigue Risk Management in Container Terminals," can effectively reduce fatigue-related incidents. The chart below depicts the impact of fatigue management strategies on incident rates.

Remote Monitoring of Assets and Processes

Embracing technological advancements, remote monitoring systems, specifically automated reefer monitoring, can revolutionize safety and efficiency in container terminals. By providing real-time data on reefer conditions, including temperature, humidity, and power supply, terminal managers can proactively identify and resolve issues remotely. A case study published in the Journal of Supply Chain Management in 2023, titled "Enhancing Safety and Productivity through Automated Reefer Monitoring in Container Terminals," showcases the benefits of remote monitoring in reducing equipment failures, improving reefer performance, and minimizing operational disruptions.


Keep operations up

Safety challenges in container terminals, particularly regarding reefers, have a profound impact on productivity and profitability. By prioritizing personnel safety, implementing accident prevention measures, addressing harsh environmental conditions, managing fatigue, and embracing remote monitoring technologies such as automated reefer monitoring, terminal managers and directors can create a safer work environment, enhance operational efficiency, and safeguard their bottom line. By leveraging scientific research and industry best practices, container terminals can pave the way for a safer, more productive, and profitable future.

To do so, HSE departments create rules to avoid accidents. Not only to comply with legal regulations but also mitigate the chance of an accident, as learned from industry best practices. As the global container business grows year by year, the recruitment of low experience workers does as well. The expanding container business, a complex work environment, and low experience workers correlate with risk for occupational injuries, shown by a study of the port of Genova from 1980-2006 (2).

Yilport's Puerto Bolivar / Ecuador uses Reefer Runner as part of its initiative to boost Reefer management productivity at their terminals worldwide.

At the same time, operations in the yard must continue. A stop costs not only money but also impacts your reputation as a reliable service provider in terms of meeting your deadlines. Incidents and accidents will stop your operations and therefore, must be avoided. Training of staff in proper procedures are essential, but there remains the human factor that is responsible for most labour-related accidents in ports.


How to improve safety and productivity simultaneously

One alternative approach is to automate specific process steps to minimize, or even exclude human intervention. Human errors occur: every human movement in a yard is a potential incident. Consequently, automating services is a reasonable approach to maximize safety and making reefer logistics much easier.



In the case of reefer management, most refrigerated containers are monitored manually. Crew members read and check the temperature and power supply periodically of every reefer in the terminal. This task involves a lot of movement in the yard, which is not only tiresome but interrupts operations as well. Yard cranes must stop when manual reefer monitoring is underway. These cranes cannot serve an entire rack or block for the duration of the inspection. To record the temperature of every reefer takes some time and the yard cranes become a bottleneck that impacts productivity. Finally, a container terminal risks missing deadlines.

Remote reefer monitoring avoids this. All reefer monitoring work is performed automatically, and all data is transferred to a central server. Instead of walking between reefers, operations managers and dockers can access real-time data on desktop or mobile devices. Container handling is not disrupted, and all processes can continue as planned, providing reliable services to customers and meeting operation timetables.



To stay ahead of the curve and maximize safety and efficiency, terminal managers and directors should consider integrating automated reefer monitoring systems into their operations. By harnessing the power of real-time data and remote control, container terminals can minimize risks, optimize resource utilization, and unlock new possibilities for growth in the rapidly evolving maritime industry.

Success Story Port of Hamburg

(1) A quick guide to health and safety in ports (pdf)
(2) Port safety and the container revolution

Note: this article was updated on 19th May, 2023