Successful Future of Automated Container Terminals meeting (FACT 2014) hosted by ITLS

11 Apr 2014

FACT Conference

On 11 April the Future of Automated Container Terminals 2014 (FACT 2014) meeting, hosted by the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, took place at the University of Sydney Business School's campus in Sydney CBD. The event, attended by around 40, looked at a wide range of issues posed by container terminal automation.

The scene was set by Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, CEO of NICTA and inventor of the Autostrad, who traced the development of the automated straddle carrier (Autostrad), currently working in Brisbane and soon to be introduced to Port Botany. He argued that the technology behind a seamless transition of goods from "ship to shop" was already complete but that there was a need for software solutions to fully implement it. He went on to tell the audience of developments in "pit to port" automation in Western Australia.

Paul Bourke of Cyberlogitec/Hanjin talked about the critical role played by terminal operating systems in automated container terminals, stressing the importance of system extensibility and flexibility. Hakim Khanna of Netherlands-based TBA, representing Professor Yvo Saanen, described the important role of simulation in terminal design, the development and testing of terminal operating systems, and the training of terminal controllers.

Following the morning break, Professor Stefan Voss of the University of Hamburg, in a presentation with the intriguing title of "Pop music for berth allocation", talked about a novel metaheuristic for the solution of complex allocation problems, with berth allocation as an example. Dr Penny Howard of the Maritime Union of Australia contrasted the differing approaches adopted by the terminal operating companies in Australia, hinting that automation need not necessarily be an anathema for labour unions. Professor Jin Chun, of Dalian University of Technology and Visiting Professor at ITLS, reviewed developments in container terminal automation in China and contrasted these with developments elsewhere, showing how China was building on its lead in crane technology.

After lunch, Luciano Corbetti of Cavotec outlined the environmental and potential economic benefits of "cold ironing", whereby ships at berth switch off their diesel generators and plug into a landside power supply. Dr Thomas Vitsounis of NICTA outlined moves to develop a national "port community system" for Australia, a sophisticated database that keeps track of all landed containers and their manifests for the benefit of customs, shippers and shipping lines. Professor Jin Chun, in his second presentation, reviewed the actual and potential uses of agent-based simulation in port environments, confirming the message from TBA regarding the importance of simulation for both planning and operational control.

Following the afternoon break, Dr Khalid Bichou of Imperial College London, talked about key performance indices and the analysis of efficiency frontiers. Dr Xiaowen Fu of ITLS presented an analysis of investment in disaster prevention using game theory to draw general policy conclusions on the timing and extent of investment. Finally, Professor Michael Bell of ITLS and (together with Dr Panagiotis Angeloudis of Imperial College London) host of FACT 2014 presented the container assignment model and its myriad applications. In his closing remarks, Michael announced that FACT 2015 would be hosted by Hong Kong Polytechnic University on 21 and 22 May 2015 and that the theme would be port and logistics connectivity.