Container Terminal 9 (CT9) North in Tsing Yi held an opening ceremony today to mark the launch of its remote-controlled rubber-tyred gantry cranes (RTGCs) and automated container stacking system. This landmark development made CT9 North the first container terminal in Hong Kong where all yard cranes are operated remotely and the stacking of containers is fully automated at yard.
The remote-controlled operations project has opened a new chapter in the development of Hong Kong’s container terminals, as it reinforces the competitiveness of the Hong Kong Port (HKP) while enhancing efficiency, occupational safety and the working environment of crane operators.
The completion of the project is also unprecedented as it was the first time in the world for a container terminal to transit RTGCs to a remote-controlled and automated stacking system while maintaining full operations.
Hongkong International Terminals Limited (HIT) pioneered a remote operation system of rail-mounted gantry cranes at its terminal back in 2012. In late 2013, HIT started to configure 29 RTGCs, which had been manually operated by crane operators from crane cabins, into remote-controlled cranes. Simultaneously, it introduced an automated container stacking system. Both major developments took place at CT9 North.
Ms Angela Lee, Deputy Secretary for Transport and Housing, said at the launching ceremony that the port has long been a cornerstone of Hong Kong’s economic growth. As a leading hub port in the region, the success of HKP can be largely attributed to the efficient and professional management and services of the terminal operators, who have made continuous investments to capitalise on emerging technologies and to upgrade the port facilities. HIT’s brand-new remote operation system not only raises the terminal’s operational efficiency, but it also strengthens the competitiveness of HKP.
HIT’s Managing Director, Mr Gerry Yim, pointed out that the remote crane operations can bring four benefits, namely:
Mr Yim remarked that HIT’s adoption of advanced technology enables the operation of cranes – to load and unload containers from trucks – to now take place indoors, in an office setting, instead of in crane cabins. The working environment of crane operators has thus been significantly improved. HIT will also offer training opportunities and organise promotion activities to attract new talents into the industry to ease the labour shortage.
With the introduction of remote-controlled cranes and an automated container stacking system, each crane is now equipped with 58 monitoring cameras and sensors to ensure full precision and enhance industrial safety in its operation. The new remote operation system is integrated with a database at the terminal to work out where and how the containers can best be grounded or stacked. Cranes under the new system are 20% more efficient and productive than manual ones.
Mr Yim said that Hong Kong’s container terminal industry has faced many challenges over the past few years, including global recessions, labour shortage and the decrease in container throughput. However, he added that the transition to remote operations can enhance the overall operational efficiency and competiveness of terminals in Hong Kong, which will maintain the city’s status as a major transshipment port.
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