How smart technologies are making ports greener and leaner

Fri, 2015-06-12 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

Ports are prime economic engines for many cities and -- excluding a relatively brief decline during the financial crisis of 2008-2009 -- the volume of goods moved by ship grew from roughly 3.3 billion metric tons in 1985 to 9.6 billion in 2013. Those numbers alone are probably enough to adequately illustrate the challenges ports face every day: how to manage operations to accommodate that growth efficiently and safely. That includes not only loading and unloading ships, but also transporting containers to and from the ports. Not to mention the growth in the size of cargo ships.

Council Associate Partner Siemens has been contracted by a number of ports throughout the world to provide a variety of technologies and services that help them keep up with the growth in shipping volume and changes in the industry.

A key concern: traffic management
One system Siemens and others developed to improve efficiency and sustainability for access roads between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, referred to as an eHighway, helps manage traffic and features routes for electric and hybrid test trucks -- which improves air quality in the region through much reduced vehicle emissions.

Germany’s ‘duisport’ contracted with Siemens to help it manage the movement of cargo vehicles in 2008. A major river port with 21 docks and 16 kilometers of quays and related facilities, 120 metric tons of shipped goods flows through it annually -- and that number is growing. Since more shipping volume means more traffic volume to handle it, the port needed help.

Integrated truck guidance systems
The solution Siemens provided was the Integrated Truck Guidance system (ITG), a remote system which tracks and guides trucks within about 12.5 miles of the port from the roads they’re traveling on to the port quickly, then allocates each truck an alternative space if the originally assigned space is not open -- or directs them to a buffer parking area if none are available.

“The ITG is currently installed at Logport, a small area of the port. Following a successful trial period, the system will be extended to cover the entire harbor,” according to Dr. Padideh Moini Gützkow, project manager for ITG at Siemens Mobile Consulting in Berlin.

Remote control for port cranes
Traffic management won’t be the only aspect of port operations where remote systems will be used, Siemens says. "Over the next few years, a remote control system will be applied to gantry cranes," explained Carsten Köhler, the head of sales for Siemens Process Industries and Drives. Gantry cranes are the towering rigs that load and unload the shipping containers. "The rapid accelerations in the crane cabins expose operators to huge physical stresses. With Siemens’ remote control concept, however, operators will be able to control container gantry cranes quickly and safely from a separate control room using a joystick and monitor."

The remote control crane technology, referred to as Simocrane, also will be able to reduce the time it takes to load and unload containers as well as energy demand -- and with the help of cameras, the technology also will be able to respond automatically to avoid container collisions.

Siemens also provides shore connection systems to provide electric power to ships while they are in port, which reduces pollution because the ships don’t need to run their diesel generators for power. The firm also has installed power systems for entire ports, a suite of software and systems coupled with energy storage, renewable energy integration and microgrids.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

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