Push a button to save your life

It’s just a large green button and a touchscreen, but APM Terminals expects the ‘Auto Truck Handling’ feature at its Maasvlakte II terminal to turn an inherently dangerous part of the terminal into a safe place to work.

Safety at the push of a button.

Aside from the flashing yellow light sitting on top, the ‘Auto Truck Handling’ machine at the APM Terminals Maasvlakte II terminal in Rotterdam looks like an ordinary automated parking meter.

“The interaction between people and machines is typically when accidents occur on a container shipping terminal, and the transfer area where trucks load and unload containers is one of those areas,” says APM Terminals Maasvlakte II Managing Director, Frank Tazelaar.

“We needed a way to make sure that the interaction between the fully automated rail-mounted gantry cranes and the truck drivers picking up and bringing containers into the terminal was as safe as possible,” says Tazelaar. “It’s very simple and very effective. We require them to hold down a button throughout the operation and that button is located a safe distance away,” he says.

Serious accidents
At APM Terminals Maasvlakte II, the fully automated container terminal being built in Rotterdam and opening on 1 November 2014, there will be very little interaction between people and machines, but the truck transfer point where trucks deliver and receive containers is one area where it will still happen often.

“Truck drivers are required to leave their trucks at transfer areas in all container terminals,” says Rik Geurtsen, Senior Project Manager for Operations at the new terminal. “But despite rules and regulations there’s been nothing to physically prevent them from staying in or from walking around their truck, fixing things or whatever, and that is when serious accidents can happen,” says Geurtsen. “With this button we can effectively keep them in a safe area.”

Safe and simple

  • Once parked, the truck driver releases the twist locks holding the container to the truck (if being unloaded).
  • The driver then swipes a terminal card that reports to the system that he/she is ready for handling.
  • A flashing yellow light notifies the truck driver that it’s his/her turn.
  • The driver exits the truck and goes to the pedestal, where he/she must answer a few safety questions.
  • He/she holds down the button to bring the crane over, confirms it’s okay to proceed using the touchscreen and continues to hold down the button until the crane has picked up the box and cleared the area before confirming the operation is over.
  • The driver can leave the safe zone and return to his/her truck.