This Article was republished in The Journal of Ports and Terminals, Top 30 Papers of 2014 - 2016; Edition 72 by Port Technology International, pp 120 -126 along with a companion update piece entitled "Progress on Container Terminal Automation: Caught in the Perfect Storm".


Port Technology International April 2016

Why Automation Fails to Deliver on Its Promises - But Can - Big Time!

With the increase in vessel sizes, terminal operators have nally realised that they will no longer be able to handle mega- ships in an efficient and economical manner without some level of automation. Some operators have sought to meet this challenge by ‘automating’ specific portions of their operations; adding CCD-TV, GPS devices, sensors and automatic steering to RTG cranes and straddle carriers.

However, even the most automated terminals that have come online have not fulfilled expectations of lower operating costs and increased berth and yard efficiency.

As Ed DeNike, President of SSA Containers, observed in an April, 2015 American Shipper Ar cle1: “We haven’t seen an automated terminal that really improved ship produc vity. In fact

no one we know . . .has equaled the productivity they had before [they went to automation].” And neither have we.

We examine why that is by looking at the most commonly voiced complaints about automation, or the rationalizations for not adopting automation, putting aside for the moment the obvious problem of confronting the reoccurring opposition by labour.

The complaints surrounding automa on are that it is:

Too complex

Too slow

Too expensive