Fresh thinking

The semi-automated project is set to contribute 15% of the Emirates non-oil GDP within a generation The semi-automated project is set to contribute 15% of the Emirates non-oil GDP within a generation
Industry Database

Khalifa Port's once in a generation development is taking shape

When Khalifa Port first announced its semi-automated ambitions it was a landmark declaration. A flagship infrastructure project, it has been designed with the latest cutting-edge technology, able to handle the largest ships.

Khalifa Port Container Terminal, Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s newest port developments, together with the new Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), the port is set to contribute 15% of the Emirates non-oil GDP within a generation, creating hundreds of new jobs and critical skills aligned to the Emirate’s future economic plans.

The new port was developed to accommodate the container traffic from the historic port Mina Zayed, which had been working over capacity for some time with no space to grow, and as dedicated enabler for the adjacent Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi – KIZAD. Khalifa Port will handle the cargo traffic generated by KIZAD which is set to become one of the world’s foremost industrial zones (covering 417 Km, two thirds of the size of Singapore). 

Khalifa Port commenced commercial operations on 1 September 2012 and was officially inaugurated on 12 December 2012 as the very first semi-automated terminal in the region and, according to the port, the transition from manual handling to semi-automated has already driven costs down significantly and delivered “enhanced service and operational excellence”.

Phase one of Khalifa Port has capacity to handle 2.5m teu and 12m tons of cargo. Further phases of development will occur as the market demand requires, but ultimately, when all of the phases are complete in 2030, the port will be able to handle 15m teu and 35m tons of cargo per year.

The new semi-automated process allows for more container capacity with minimal congestion and faster turnaround times. The inventory stacks in the yard are fully automated, likewise the delivery and loading information and advanced GPS tracking information is fully integrated with customs to improve throughput. Supported with more and more detailed online information customers can plan their supply chain logistics with increased accuracy and certainty and the port promises a ‘zero error’ guarantee to customers.

Angelo de Jong, project manager, Abu Dhabi Terminals (ADT) – Khalifa Port Terminals operator - comments: “The difference between manual handling and semi-automated is already clear, the waiting times at Khalifa Port have been significantly reduced compared to what they used to be at Mina Zayed. Three hour truck waits were not unheard of at Mina Zayed, now they are down to 15 minutes. Container movements at Khalifa port now average 30 per hour and the equipment can handle 40 per hour.”

Thirty automated stacking cranes are a key part of the container terminal yard operations, unmanned, fitted with lasers to ensure optimum positioning and container detection they are partially (and remotely) operated from the Operation control room. The twenty manual shuttle carriers and the six quay crane are fitted with differential GPS and RTLS (real time location systems) to ensure total accuracy on container locations at all times, meaning a container is never ‘lost’. Automated gates and quay cranes include OCR (optical character recognition) and provide automated gate load and discharge information removing opportunity for ‘human error’. 

More recently, ADT joined with other stakeholders (Abu Dhabi Ports Company; Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority; Abu Dhabi Customs Administration) to introduce the new ports community system (PCS). Offering a one-stop-shop for the ports’ service, the PCS integrates and accelerates the flow of trade-related documentation acting as a secure, centralised electronic system managing the exchange of information between all the relevant parties.

Previously, each company or agency would be responsible for liaising with each other – separately – which amounted to a high number of man-hours allocated to import and export procedures. The new PCS platform will immediately benefit all the freight forwarders, ship owners, shipping agents, ports services, inland carriers, and other entities that regularly use the port.

The next steps for the port include automated shuttle carriers, remotely operated quay cranes and ultimately smart containers which include RFID RTLS, although Mr De Jong concedes that the last may take some time to implement.

He adds that alongside the cutting-edge technology, ADT’s people have made a huge difference, with a range of simulation tools developed to improve productivity and turnaround times and to underline safety training.

“Today’s operations in the semi-automated port are far more complex than they were in Mina Zayed. But thanks to the strong emphasis on training, one the many benefits of automation is safety, ADT has racked up 1 million manhours without a loss time injury, a very significant achievement in a port which was still being built on as operations took place. 

“Starting afresh in the new port, meant no legacy issues and we could build a strong safety culture right from the start.”


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