Korea’s first AGV terminal underway


Dongwon Global Terminal in Busan New Port is operating with remote-controlled STS cranes and AGVs.

In April President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea officially opened the Dongwon Global Terminal (DGT), the seventh container terminal in Busan New Port. Like all the other new terminals at Busan New Port, DGT features a yard system using Automated Stacking Cranes (ASCs). However, DGT is different from its competitors in several important respects.

DGT was developed by the Busan Port Authority (BPA), which decided early on it would purchase the cranes from Korean suppliers itself, as part of a wider plan to help ‘revive’ the domestic crane industry.

The terminal opened with nine double trolley STS cranes operated by remote control, which were supplied by Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries. The yard currently features 23 yard blocks served by 46 ASCs.

The first 12 ASCs were ordered from Doosan in 2020, while others were manufactured by HJ Shipbuilding and Construction (HJSC), which includes the former Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Co. Ltd., a company that has built many container cranes in the past under the Hanjin brand.

Crane control and automation for both the STS and the ASC cranes was supplied by Korea’s Seoho Electric. The TOS was supplied by CyberLogitec, another Korean company.

Opting for AGVs

For horizontal transport between the quay and the yard, DGT decided to implement AGVs. At the time the equipment was procured, Korea did not have an established AGV supplier. Hyundai has built AGVs in the past and attempted to sell them internationally, but that was many years ago.

DGT awarded the AGV contract to Hyundai Rotem (HRC), which is part of the Hyundai Motor Group and manufactures rolling stock, defence products and plant equipment. HRC partnered with VDL of the Netherlands, an established AGV supplier, to provide fully electric, battery AGVs. To manage the timeline, VDL made 25% of the AGVs in the Netherlands, and HRC manufactured 75% of the machines in Korea. VDL also supplied six high-power fully automated E-chargers.

The fleet size is 60 AGVs for the first phase, increasing to 100 machines for phase two. The AGVs navigate using a transponder system, and VDL’s navigation software.

Integration and testing

One of the challenges in bringing the new terminal together is that there are two different customers for the container handling system. As noted, BPA purchased the STS and yard cranes, and DGT owns the AGVs and the Fleet Management System (FMS – otherwise known as the equipment control system) for the AGV management.

DGT contracted Korea’s Piscesoft as systems integrator, which is headed by Chad Lee. Lee has over 20 years of experience with automation and integration in Korea and other countries. His career goes back to integrating the first ASCs in Korea with the TOS at what was then Pusan East Container Terminal.

At DGT, Piscesoft was required to integrate not just the TOS, but also a new FMS for the AGVs, which was supplied by Hyundai Rotem. Lee said this “not just doubled but squared” the complexity of the process. To verify interfaces and test the system, Piscesoft opted to use the CHESSCON emulation tool, which is developed by Germany’s Akquinet. Piscesoft had used CHESSCON at a previous project, the PSA Terminal in Busan New Port.

Akquinet CEO Dr. Holger Schuett said a challenge for emulating the whole terminal process ahead of the “go live” was that DGT did not have access to the STS and yard cranes. To work around this, Akquinet and Piscesoft designed a “hybrid” emulation plan. A digital twin for the port was built using crane models Akquinet had previously developed for automated cranes.

Dr. Schuett added that these have been developed over many years in consultation with terminal operators and crane control providers. The digital twins are very detailed, down to allowing for the opening and closing of crane brakes before a crane can move.

The emulation testing included different milestones such as connectivity, basic flow, ramp up, volume, and unattended runs. Hybrid testing with live equipment was conducted over four weeks, about two months before go-live. These hybrid tests saw the TOS and FMS connected to the simulation model to create a testing environment where real AGVs could operate, and both the machines and the FMS could be validated.

With the hybrid model, AGVs underwent operational tests, moving around the terminal without containers. This allowed the performance of the AGV system to be validated without complications from crane faults, noted Lee. Piscesoft was also able to set aside part of the testing area to train operational staff without affecting the validation of the AGVs and FMS.

The testing process allowed DGT to measure crane productivity with different operational scenarios. Dr. Schuett and Lee both emphasised that the hybrid testing model was very successful and played a key role in DGT going live on schedule. The terminal is now operational, and DGT has begun the process of transferring services from the Singamman Terminal in the older North Port Area, which is operated by Dongwon Pusan Container Terminal (DPCT), a shareholder in DGT. This represents a container volume of around 1m TEU per year.

More to follow

More terminals in Korea will likely operate AGVs before too long, including terminals in Gwangyang and Incheon. In 2021 the Incheon Port Authority announced it intended to develop Stage 1-2 of its Incheon New Port development as a fully automated terminal, including AGVs, which is planned to open in 2026.

Speaking in December 2023 Korea’s Minster of Oceans and Fisheries Cho Seung Hwan said DGT marks “the opening of a new era of fully automated port operations in Korea”. As well as additional fully automated terminals in Incheon and Gwangyang, he said a “Korean smart port” is planned for the Jinhae New Port in Busan.

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