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ABB automation for Tianjin

ABB is supplying the automation and remote control systems for a retrofit project to automate RMGs in Tianjin.

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ABB's automation and remote supervision system in operation in Tianjin, China
ABB's automation and remote supervision system in operation in Tianjin, China

It has emerged that ABB is supplying the automation systems for an automation project in Tianjin previously announced by ZPMC.


Earlier this year ZPMC reported its “ZPMC Smart Group” had won has a contract for the “Tianjin Wuzhou International Terminal Container Yard RMG Automatic Restructure Project”, which involved retrofitting automation systems to 31 RMGs. Tianjin Wuzhou International Terminal is operated as Tianjin Five Continents International Container Terminal Co., Ltd (FICT).


ABB has now announced that the 31 RMGs at FICT will be fitted with its “automation and remote supervision solution, and refurbished with ABB’s electrical systems delivered in a pre-assembled, containerized E-houses,” in collaboration with ZPMC.

The yard at FICT
The yard at FICT

As can be seen in the picture to the left, the RMG cranes at FICT are a customised design, with two vehicle lanes within the crane portal. There are also differences in the mechanical system with some of the cranes having a rope tower, while others have a reeving system that ABB notes “resembles a ship-to-shore (STS) crane”.

Over the years, WorldCargo News understands, FICT and another operator in Tianjin have considered a number of different yard configurations, one of which was thought to involve using a low height straddle or shuttle carrier operating under an RMG/ASC portal for the quay-to-stack transfer. This has not been implemented, but it could explain the dual truck lane at FICT.

Whatever its final automation plans, Uno Bryfors, Senior Vice President of ABB Ports, notes that “FICT is a very technically competent customer, and they designed and specified the solution themselves. We tailored our solution to the unique mechanical design of these cranes and to FICT’s requirements, relying on our experience on automating nearly 900 stacking cranes worldwide”.


Bryfors adds that automating stacking cranes without a rope tower, which holds the load steady without requiring an electronic sway control system, is more demanding. “The sway control needs to handle trolley movement, gantry travel and hoisting, and often all three simultaneously. Our system is able to handle all of this and thus enables our customer to achieve efficient automated yard operation.”

For ABB, the project is an important reference in a market that is expected to produce more ‘brownfield’ automation conversion projects in the years to come. “Automating stacking cranes is our core competence and we have a strong track record in terminals in all main Asian markets,” said Bryfors. “We believe that automatic stacking cranes and especially cantilever type cranes will be the preferred type of equipment for yards in many terminals around the world, including in China.”

For FICT the reasons to introduce automation now are increasing capacity and productivity. The terminal was deigned with a capacity of around 1.5M TEU, which FICT says has “become insufficient in the “mega-age” characterized by bigger ships and increasing container volumes.”


“We analyzed the terminal’s operation and found that automating the yard was crucial for our overall productivity,” said Mr. Song Tianwei, General Manager at FICT.

FICT is not planning an extensive shutdown while it converts the cranes to automation and remote control. Indeed, it says the project is “moving ahead at record pace, and the first batch of cranes was rebuilt, automated and commissioned for production just a few months after the contract was signed.

According to Mr.Song, as well as coming on stream quickly, the automation system is already delivering very good productivity: “We can already see that the cranes equipped with ABB’s automation system deliver a very stable performance of 30 moves per hour,” he said. “With this performance, we will obtain more than 10 percent increase in terminal’s capacity at the completion of the modernization project.”


As well as increasing capacity through more effective utilisation of the yard, automation also improves safety. “At the same time, we will offer a better and safer working environment for our crane operators, who are very happy about the move to control room environment,” Song concluded.

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