Substantial retrofit terminal automation potential

Automation graphic Drewry graphic showing the potential for retrofit terminal automation

Substantial potential exists for retrofit terminal automation, Drewry’s March 2018 Quarterly Port Sector Report Briefing shows.

Only 44 of the 1,300 existing container terminal worldwide are automated. This figure equates to 3% of terminals worldwide, while just 1% are fully automated.

The best potential for retrofitting automaton lies with larger terminals in high wage economies, with North Asia (including China) and Europe offering the most opportunities, the report shows.

However, general interest in automation and technological learning in areas such as big data, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence means lower wage economies are also showing interest, explained Drewry senior analyst Neil Davidson.

China container monopoly

The report also showed that Chinese ports are being served by the largest vessels and more direct services, with nearly all Northeast Asia deep sea loops calling at Chinese ports.

Mr Davidson stated that lines will continue to allocate their largest ULCVs to services calling in China and as more ULCVs are delivered, and existing ships cascaded, average and maximum vessel sizes will continue to increase.

Port Connectivity index

Drewry’s Port Connectivity Index highlighted Singapore, Algeciras and Nigbo as the ports with the largest increase in mainline services per week (Q4 2017 compared to Q4 2017). Four of the top seven were also notably transhipment hubs.

Greater China also performed well in the Index’s top 20 list, with Shanghai and Ningbo in first and second place respectively. They were followed by Singapore, Busan and Hong Kong.

Container growth volume was 4.5% in 2018, which is lower than 2017’s figure, although year’s figure should be viewed in the context of a poor 2016 performance, pointed out Mr Davidson.

Mediterranean top

Regionally, Mediterranean ports were the top performers in Q4 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. Middle East - South Asia and North America followed next.

In summary, Drewry found the positives for the quarter to be the potential for retrofit terminal automation and the continued climb in the rolling average annual growth rate in port traffic.

The consultancy concluded the negatives were Chinese port operators being hit by a tariff ruling and more politically-driven port projects.

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