Container terminals in Asia and the Middle East generally achieve more intensive use of their resources, including berths, cranes and land, than European or North American terminals, according to a report by Drewry Shipping Consultants.
North American terminals rank at the lower end of the scale, particularly in terms of the intensity of land usage, says the report, which is entitled "Container Terminal Capacity and Performance Benchmarks."
The adoption of automation in the industry has been both slow and challenging, the report finds.
Of all terminals worldwide, no more than 15 can be described as automated, and even then there is a distinction between fully automated (i.e. all moves from the berth through the yard to delivery to truck are automated) and semi-automated (i.e. only the yard stack is automated).
The report is based on a sample of approximately 500 terminals worldwide handling at least 100,000 TEUs annually and equipped with gantry cranes.
While automated terminals perform better annually than the world average in terms of 20-foot equivalent units handled per meter of berth, they do not achieve figures as high as large terminals in general.
The report concludes that automation does not necessarily result in more intensive use of the land area of the terminal.
"It is clear that the primary motivation for container terminal automation cannot be seen as increased productivity," said Neil Davidson, Drewry's senior advisor for ports and editor of the report.
"Rather it is all about replacing labor costs with capital costs, and as a result, it is the high wage countries and regions like Europe, North America and Japan where it has been pursued with the most interest," Davidson said.
The report found that the actual performance of the industry averages around 900 TEUs per meter of berth per year, with larger terminals achieving significantly higher figures than smaller ones, and transshipment terminals also outperforming the average.
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