Potential Impacts of Container Terminal Automation

Potential Impacts of Container Terminal Automation

The automation of container terminals may impact several aspects of maritime shipping, terminal operation and logistics.

  • Shipping network. Terminal automation may incite shipping lines to call automated ports with their largest ships since these terminals may be able to provide higher throughput, allowing them to use their assets more effectively. An additional form of competition for transshipment hubs could emerge, imposing a rationalization of shipping networks along a hierarchy where automation plays a role.
  • Terminal facilities. Automation incites the design of new terminal facilities with new arrangements of stacking yards and interactions with the piers and the gates. This changes terminal operations in terms of the availability of terminal capacity, work cycles, and turnaround times. In turn, the velocity of the respective terminal flows changes, requiring adjustments, particularly with inland distribution.
  • Terminal footprint. Terminal automation allows for higher density use of terminal space. If automation becomes a dominant force in shipping terminal development, then a decline of the terminal footprint could be expected as the same amount of traffic (or more traffic) could be handled with less footprint. In ports having several container terminals, this could imply the closure of less productive terminals facilities.
  • Vertical integration. The digitalization aspect of automation incites a better integration with the providers of logistical services, from carriers, cargo owners, and distributors as wells as regulatory stakeholders (port authority, customs). Therefore, both automation and its associated digitalization increase the velocity of freight and provides new forms of interactions (such as freight markets) between actors.