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Published: 8 December 2010      

Automation project for Tacoma?

A US engineering firm is interested in teaming up with an industrial partner to help it to build a prototype of an automated yard concept it has developed and to help with the marketing. The Port of Tacoma has been suggested as a possible testing ground

Last year Ed de Nike, COO of SSA Terminals, stunned the West Coast port industry by stating that the company was interested in automating its PCT, Long Beach operation using ZPMC's automated yard system (WorldCargo News, November 2009, p1).

Although no details are available, it seems that SSAT’s plans are now fairly well advanced and some developments may become clear shortly.

However, this may not be "the only game in town." In last month's WorldCargo News (p31), we reviewed a concept from Paceco Corp, called "SegCart," and now a similar concept, but using a conveyor system instead of Segcarts for the long travel alongside the ASC stacks, has been unveiled by Tacoma-based structural engineering and crane consultancy firm Casper, Phillips & Associates (CP&A).

The CP&A system will be examined in more detail in the December 2010 edition of WorldCargo News. Suffice it to say, at this juncture, that both Paceco and CP&A take the view that existing automated yards involve excessive and unproductive and energy-intensive long-travelling of the ASCs as well as unproductive "handovers" (when the stack has twin ASCs on the same rails).

Now, according to CP&A's president, Bill Casper, ZPMC has demonstrated it can do 30 moves per hour, but SSAT's cranes at Long Beach can easily do 40 moves/hour if the backland can keep up. Furthermore, Casper estimates that backland productivity needs to be at least 40 moves/hour for the STS cranes to average 30 moves/hour.

CP&A says that its automation concept (using the conveyor system) is designed to produce backland support of at least 50 movers per hour per STS crane. This system, says the firm, coupled with semi-automated STS cranes, can probably average at least 40 per hour.

CP&A is interested in working with a partner who has the means and interest to build a prototype and help market the concept. It suggests that the Port of Tacoma could be a good location because Local 23 President Scott Mason is highly supportive of automated terminals. "He wants more maintenance workers because they are higher tech and also higher pay than the ordinary longshore workers that might be phased out by automation," said the firm.


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  • America - North) United States of America) US Port developments
  • Casper, Phillips & Associates
  • Paceco
  • SSA Terminals
  • ZPMC
  • Civil and consulting engineers
  • Automated stacking cranes
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