Robots starting to run things in Rotterdam

APM Terminals’ fully automated container terminal, Maasvlakte II, is coming alive – with robots. The automation is one of the reasons why it will be one of the most productive terminals in the world, yet still emission neutral.

MVII
Nearing the finish: APM Terminal’s Maasvlakte II terminal as it looks today. It will open for business 1 November 2014.

Europe’s main gateway for trade

  • Rotterdam is Europe’s main gateway for trade, its largest terminal and the 11th largest in the world based on annual container volumes. APM Terminals signed the contract with the Port of Rotterdam in August 2006 to create the MVII terminal.

In a fenced-in area of APM Terminals’ Maasvlakte II (MVII) container terminal in Rotterdam, two massive robots are moving containers around with no people anywhere in sight.

“They’re practicing, we’re observing,” says William Rengelink, Technical Integration Manager for the MVII terminal project. Rengelink is directing the hidden part of the terminal build – the software and systems that the machines and people will rely on to operate the terminal.

About 300 people will work at MVII, almost all of them outside the container yard. And of the 74 machines in the yard, 63 will run on their own with no human intervention.

High expectations
The MVII terminal is still under construction so a handful of people are temporarily working in the yard, but on 1 November 2014 when the terminal opens for business, the robots will take over.

Frank
Frank Tazelaar, Managing Director and William Rengelink who is Technical Integration Manager.
Poster image
Rail-mounted robots: 26 rail-mounted gantry cranes will manage the container stacks with the computer systems sending them specific tasks throughout the day. 0:54
APMT 4
RC Cranes: The 8 ship-to-shore cranes will be operated remotely using a joystick and multiple viewing screens where cameras mounted on the cranes provide different viewing angles.

  • The 8 ship-to-shore cranes will be remotely controlled by people in the nearby office watching on screens, 2 barge cranes with drivers, 1 rail crane with a driver, and 26 rail-mounted gantry cranes and 37 AGVs.

Expectations are high for APM Terminal’s first fully-automated terminal, not least in terms of productivity.

“Based on the yard design and with the automation, we expect to be 25-50% better in terms of container moves per hour than any other terminal in Northern Europe,” says MVII Managing Director, Frank Tazelaar, adding that he expects the terminal will ultimately “compete with the best in the world.”

Stress testing
Until opening day, Rengelink and a team of 40 IT and operations staff are testing the endurance and integrity of all the equipment and functionality of the software around the clock.

APMT 5
Maasvlakte II refers to the overall expansion of the Port of Rotterdam and includes 3 new container terminals. This is the entire port area as it will look when MVII is completed in 2035.
July 2012
Fast and furious: The terminal site as it looked nearly 2 years ago.
MVII Digital
The yard design and the full automation of processes and most of the equipment, combined with its direct rail and barge links will make it one of the most productive terminals in the world.

  • The yard design and the full automation of processes and most of the equipment, combined with its direct rail and barge links will make it one of the most productive terminals in the world. It will also be emission neutral, with every machine in the yard running on electricity.

300

eople will work at MVII, almost all of them outside the container yard.

They conduct tests with individual machines and also when operating together in ‘mini terminal’ type scenarios. Full end-to-end testing of the whole system of software and machines operating and communicating together will be done in June.

“We know we won’t have everything perfect by 1 November 2014, that’s the nature of this project though,” says Rengelink.

“We’re building a system, so we need the system to respond to changes and exceptions on its own and we won’t know all those scenarios on day one. We need to see real operations to know what needs refining and tweaking, which will be continuous until we reach our performance targets.”

Poster image
Automated Guided Vehicles or ‘AGVs’ will carry the containers between the vessels and the rail-mounted gantry cranes in the new terminal. PlayStop 0:54