Ports of Auckland will soon start work on partially automating its container terminal. It will be the first New Zealand port and only the third straddle carrier terminal in the world to automate.
When complete in 2019, automated straddle carriers will be used to load and unload trucks and operate the container yard. Manually driven straddle carriers will continue to work between the yard and ship-to- shore cranes.
“This is a game changer for us,” said Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson. “We need more container terminal capacity but we can’t expand through reclamation, so we have to go up. Automation allows us to do that safely and efficiently.
“This stage of automation will increase our terminal capacity from just over 900,000 TEU a year to 1.6-1.7 million TEU annually. That is enough to support an Auckland population of around 2.7 million. In other words, this technology gives us an additional 30-40 years of capacity.”
Gibson said automation would also help the port operate sustainably, as automated straddle carriers use up to 10% less fuel and thereby reduce the port’s carbon footprint. “They need less light and operate more quietly, reducing our impact on neighbouring communities. And they will lower our costs, making our operation more competitive and sustainable long-term,” Gibson said.
The decision was made after a year of consultation with staff and unions and detailed studies to prove the concept’s safety and effectiveness. As a result of automation, around 50 stevedoring roles could go. As the project will take about three years to implement, the port plans to manage the reduction in roles through a combination of staff turnover, retirement and retraining.
Ports of Auckland currently operate a fleet of 13m tall manual straddle carriers that can stack containers up to three high. The automated straddle carriers will be 15.8m tall and will be able to stack containers up to four high. This increase, combined with changes to the terminal layout and completion of the port’s current reclamation project, will increase capacity by nearly 80%.