| 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.

Automated yard cranes and reefers in the background

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Safety is paramount

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. Companies must address and manage these risks accordingly.

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).

Keep operations up

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.

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.

reefer-management-yard-2-idsHow to improve safety and productivity simultaneously

In the case of refrigerated container management, most reefers 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.

Automated monitoring avoids this. All reefer monitoring work is performed automatically and remote, 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.

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