Automation is firmly on the agenda for APM Terminals. That was the message delivered by Morten Engelstoft, CEO of APM Terminals, at a Capital Markets Day hosted by AP Møller-Maersk recently.
Engelstoft said automation is a key part of APMT’s goal to become the “best in class terminal operator”, a wider project that the company is now three years into. “Automation is critical for us because it helps improve safety, it allows us to deliver better services to our customers, it enables us to make our operations greener, and it improves our margins. And we have quite a lot of experience in APM Terminals with automation, both good experience and, frankly, also not so good experience. We are taking all these lessons learnt into the way that we work with automation,” he said.
Based on that experience, APMT has arrived at a ‘modular automation’ strategy, where it does not necessarily take a terminal-wide approach to an automation system, but focuses on selected parts of the operation. “That has benefits in that it reduces risks, gives faster impact and return, and allows us to pick the parts of our operations where there are the best impacts and opportunities,” said Engelstoft.
APMT is leveraging its experience to reduce the go-live and ramp-up period at its automation projects. Looking at three large automation initiatives that APMT has launched, the go-live and ramp-up period at the fully automated MVII terminal in Rotterdam was 50 months. Tanger Med 2 in Morocco had a much faster period of 37 months, and the new Kalmar automated straddle carrier system at Pier 400 in Los Angeles is expected to reach the same point in just 27 months, highlighting the enormous potential of the automated straddle carrier system.
Engelstoft did not mention Lázaro Cardenas in Mexico or Vado Ligure in Italy, but he noted that APMT is moving in the right direction with automation, and that the Tanger Med 2 terminal went into operation “faster and more safely than any other automation project anywhere else in the industry so far”.
Over the next five years, APMT plans to invest US$600M in automation initiatives across a number of its terminals. The company will have more money to spend on yard automation as it is coming out of a period of high investment in larger STS cranes and crane work required to serve bigger vessels, and it does not expect this to continue. Engelstoft emphasised that the investments will be “selective” and APMT will not be in the position it was five years ago, when it had a number of greenfield projects coming on stream at the same time, generating very high costs and limited in- come for long periods.