Besides the breeze blowing off the nearby Pacific, the only sounds are electronic levers, gears, cranks and the occasional warning sirens bleating from vehicles hauling steel shipping containers to awaiting vessels. What is unusual for a bustling dock that moves 5.2 million containers annually is that you don’t hear any shouts, laughter or other human speech. Welcome to Qingdao Port, home of one of the few fully-automated port terminals in the world and one of the most advanced in Asia. Now in operation for over a year, the terminal boasts a loading efficiency of over 33 containers an hour, and in April this year reached a record of 42.9 containers in an hour, AP reports.
“This is the highest level of efficiency in the world,” Luan Baobo, vice general manager of the port, said. “Traditional terminals are around 23 or 24 containers per hour.” Port authorities say they developed all the technology for automating the port themselves from the ground-up. Vehicles moving containers use a magnetic guiding system and censors to ensure they do not collide with each other, as well as the overall technology that automatically brings the containers up to the port area for loading. They also developed the first automatic robotic disassembly system for unlocking the twist locks to remove containers from the vehicles. “We’ve not had any collisions or accidents for over a year,” Luan said. “Traditional terminals can occasionally have accidents, and perhaps one or two deaths a year at a port.” When it comes to building automated platforms such as this, Shandong province is taking a lead in China.