ABB sees port automation opportunities across the spectrum

The interest of countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar and other similar stage countries is that they are going through a rapid development phase now and there is a need to boost infrastructure. 

“Otherwise there will be bottlenecks in the development so there is no doubt there must be investments and development of infrastructure,” ABB head of China Marine & Ports Alf Kaare Aadnanes told Seatrade Maritime News.

All these present good opportunities for companies such as ABB. “For ports we also see that there are good opportunities to get business in the new developments,” added Aadnanes.

At the heart of all this is ABB’s belief that greater automation is the way forward for ports. The range of opportunities runs the whole spectrum from greenfield smaller ports to mid-size ports that have bigger ambitions to well-established ports that are upgrading as part of the normal replacement cycle.

For smaller greenfield ports, there is the potential to make them productive right from the beginning because they come from a low base and can ramp up quickly. “You can build a good foundation and bypass the intermediate phase so I think that is a good opportunity for the ports,” Aadnanes said.

Meanwhile more mature ports can choose to progressively replace parts of their system with newer automation equipment that can help boost productivity and efficiency.

Here they would have the option to automate as much as they feel comfortable with, bearing in mind that the port industry is quite conservative and often reluctant to adopt new technologies even though they may be clearly better.

Aadnanes believes the ultimate vision is for ever increasing levels of automation in ports so that the only human element comes in exceptions handling. However not all port operators are prepared to take that route or to cede control of their terminal operating systems (TOS) to external vendors.

In response to this Aadnanes said a suitable compromise might be to provide a single through system at a level below the TOS, where the port operator would still ultimately be overall in control but the key functions such as gate handling, yard operations and quay cranes could be horizontally integrated using a customised ABB solution.

Posted 06 December 2017

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Vincent Wee

Hong Kong and SE Asia Correspondent, Seatrade Maritime News

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