Ports of Auckland could become the first automated container port in New Zealand if consultations with staff on the proposal proceed satisfactorily.
CEO, Tony Gibson said: “Auckland freight growth is relentless. To handle it we’ve pushed our performance to world class levels but we’re reaching the limit of what we can do with our current technology. We need more room. We can’t go out so we need to go up, and for that automation looks the best bet.”
While the more complex operations under the quay crane would continue to be performed by manual straddle carriers, the proposal, which would see container yard operations automated. This would involve the use of new larger 1-over-3 automated straddles replacing the 1-over-2 high machines currently in use. As a result the container stack height would be raised, increasing container capacity at the terminal by 30% increase without the need for new reclamation.
“Automation has the potential to deliver capacity, cost and environmental benefits,” said Gibson, but he warned that it would have an impact on jobs.
“Up to 50 jobs could be lost, although we would work hard to reduce this number. Staff turnover, growth in the business and some changes to the way we work would help us keep this number as low as possible. My priority is to ensure our people are looked after and helped through any change that may occur,” he said.
Unions were previously advised by the port’s management that automation was being investigated, with preliminary work showing that the idea has merit. On-going staff consultation will take around six weeks.
A scoping study to produce a detailed proposal for partial automation will also be carried out and is expected to take about three months to complete. The port has said that the results of this and the consultation will be taken into account when making a decision on whether or not to proceed further with automation. A decision is expected to be made in early 2016, following a second round of consultation.
The introduction of automated straddle carriers is expected to deliver significant savings, including a reduction of 10% in fuel use and lower carbon emissions, along with less maintenance and repair and less terminal lighting, thereby reducing electricity costs and light pollution.