TOC Europe 2024: From ‘Terminator’ vision to modern container Tetris

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The third and final day of TOC Europe 2024 wraps up, highlighting the role of AI, vision technology and implementation of high-bay storage systems.

TOC Europe 2024 wrapped up on Thursday, bringing to a close an insightful three-day conference that proved invaluable for shippers, port technology experts, and the entire maritime sector.

The final day of the event featured an interesting agenda focused on optimising cargo handling processes and enhancing equipment maintenance, alongside engaging discussions about shippers’ needs and expectations.

From movie screens to port yards

Speaking at the session titled Optimising Cargo Handling Processes, John Lund from Visy OY said, “The reality of artificial intelligence today is that it truly is faster and more accurate than a  human being could ever be.”

The Finnish company specialises in providing advanced technology solutions for the maritime and logistics sectors. They provide advanced camera systems and optical character recognition (OCR) technology that are integral to their solutions for ports and terminals.

However, as Lund explained, ‘OCR’ is now an outdated term, and the new terminology is artificial intelligence, ‘machine vision’ and vision technology because the role of these solutions is to look at any new data that can be extracted going beyond IDs and licence plates.

“Terminals are looking nowadays for a one source of truth, a single platform that knows where everything is on the yard and the way that information can be centralised and shared with other systems,” Lund added.

Speaking about the company’s Visy TopView, a spreader OCR – a compact camera system that automatically identifies container IDs from the roofs of containers- Lund said that the system transforms any spreader into a smart device, and feeds data into that system with 99%+ accuracy.

As explained, the system also solves the problem of misplaced cargo, reducing staff requirements and fuel consumption since reach stackers are no longer required to drive around and fix incorrect positioning.

Lund also highlighted that ‘busy’ images with multiple containers, steep angles and damaged codes are no longer a problem for vision technology, and that multiple terminals owned by APM Terminals, PSA and SSA are using the technology and planning to expand it into their regular operations.

“Five years ago, this type of technology seemed like something from a Terminator movie, but today this is readily available on the market resulting in cost and time savings in every single transaction, ensuring that yard inventory is accurate and there is one source of truth readily available for the operator to share with partners and third parties,” he concluded.

Modern container Tetris

Christoph Roth, CEO of BOXBAY

Since its debut at TOC five years ago, disruptive technologies such as BOXBAY have undergone substantial advancements, Christoph Roth, CEO of BOXBAY, said.

BOXBAY, formed by DP World and SMS group, introduces High Bay Storage (HBS) systems at container terminals. These systems triple transhipment capacity while using only one third of the space of conventional storage.

The idea behind the project is to place each container in its own rack rather than stacking them vertically, ensuring direct accessibility, and thereby enhancing efficiency and throughput in port logistics.

Roth mentioned that when the product was launched five years ago, it garnered significant interest but also encountered scepticism, given three decades of unsuccessful attempts to establish high bay storage at ports.

“It was too heavy, too slow and in the end, it didn’t work,” he said. “However, five years later, we have the first facility running in Jebel Ali in Dubai at DP World, and we have another industrial order in Busan, and more projects in the pipeline around the world.”

BOXBAY comes in three applications: Top-Grid, Side-Grid and Hybrid-Grid.

In the Top-Grid the warehouse is elevated and accessible from below. AGVs or automated trucks operate at ground level beneath the aisles and are serviced directly by the stacker cranes from above.

The Side-Grid has interfaces on both the end and the longitudinal sides. Because trucks are serviced via CPC loops and truck transfer cranes on the longitudinal sides, it is called the Side-Grid. The Hybrid-Grid is a mixture of both.

It can include The Aisle Echanger for moving stacking cranes from one aisle to another and it can adapt for reefer connection.

Roth emphasised that while customers may initially view the investment in BOXBAY as significant due to the extensive use of steel and other materials, the business case is compelling. He said that consolidating operations under one facility allows terminal operators to significantly increase yard capacity, for instance by centralising empty containers from various areas into a single location, and using the space for other purposes thereby boosting revenue considerably.

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