Container port automation is the application of automated systems to manage the movement of containers within a port or terminal. By design, it improves efficiency and productivity by reducing the time and cost associated with manual handling processes.

After a brief introduction to the shipping industry's history of automation, this whitepaper discusses the potential benefits for container terminals, looks deeper into port processes and uncovers the potential of automation before showing real effects on ports based on use cases rather than models.

Port Automation Challenges

Automation in the shipping industry

Since the 1950s, containerisation has been a significant force on maritime transport and has profoundly impacted the shipping industry, enabling large increases in global trade. Containers can be loaded and unloaded rapidly and efficiently, and they can be moved easily between different modes of transport (such as ships, trucks, and trains). In addition, Containerisation eliminated the manual sorting of most shipments and the need for dock-front warehouses. This has significantly reduced the number of dockworkers required to operate a port that formerly handled break bulk cargo. In general, containerisation diminished congestion in ports, significantly shortened shipping time, and reduced losses from damage and theft.


Potential benefits of automating container ports

Despite the limitations of automation, containerisation has had a major impact on the shipping industry. It has resulted in shorter turnaround times, lower costs and boosted efficiency. Furthermore, containerisation has been a catalyst for globalisation. Reducing the costs of trade containerisation has motivated specialisation and the expansion of global supply chains.

Container terminal automation is a relatively new technology designed to improve container handling operations' efficiency and productivity. Automation initiatives suggested improvements in several areas.


Port processes and their automation potential

While containerisation has had a transformative effect on global shipping, recent years have seen an increased push for automation to streamline operations further. However, several challenges stand in the way of fully automating container ports.

One of the biggest hurdles is the need for human intervention in specific tasks, such as handling damaged containers or dealing with hazardous materials. In addition, the high cost of automation technology is another barrier. We must understand port cargo handling, yard transport and landisde operations as processes within a container terminal that could potentially be subject to automation.


Effects of port automation

Although container port automation faces significant challenges, 4% of all container terminals have already invested in automation and adapted their processes. Therefore, we can use data from these ports to observe the effects of automation in container terminals. In this whitepaper, we will describe the effects of automation in areas like port performance, handling costs and safety & labour conditions.


Download this whitepaper and learn about

  • The basic processes within a container terminal

  • The history of port and shipping automation

  • The potential for automation

  • The real effects of automation on existing port projects


Download your free copy of our whitepaper "Limits of Container Port Automation"