BUSAN, South Korea — Hanjin Shipping’s Busan container terminal and the turnaround times it affords are enough to make eyes water. Twelve ship-to-shore cranes covering 10 lanes offer up to 40 moves and hour each and are supported by 42 fully automated rail-mounted gantry cranes. The facility, which opened in 2009 and handled 2.5 million 20-foot-equivalent units in 2012, enables truck turnaround, including drop-off and pickup, in just 13 minutes.
And all of this at a terminal manned by just 20 people at the world’s fifth-largest container port.
Hanjin New Port also serves as a strong example of the extent to which U.S. container terminal operators are falling behind terminals in Asia on performance and productivity, according to John Vickerman, president of maritime and port consultant Vickerman & Associates.
“Today the average U.S. container port throughput performance fails by a factor of more than 4-to-1 compared to the best international performance levels,” he told The Journal of Commerce. “Even adjusting for transshipment volumes, the U.S. container port industry still lags the global container terminal performance leaders by more than 2-to-1 and yet both systems have access to the same technology platforms, although the labor management regimes are, admittedly, quite different.”
Vickerman said the U.S. container port system must get to the point where port investments in new terminal infrastructure and technology start to approach world class best practice levels.
“In my opinion, U.S. ports, both labor and management, must engage and embrace full terminal robust automation,” he said. “Europe is in its fifth generation of automatic guided vehicles and the U.S. hasn’t fully engaged in its first generation.”
Labor and management could benefit from the predicted rising tide of future North American cargo flows if they moved toward integrated automated systems, Vickerman said. “The Port of Virginia’s APMT Terminal in Portsmouth is a positive case in point and provides a precursor for future improved terminal throughput opportunities,” he said. “Overall we need to strive to achieve ‘over the work shift’ sustained gantry crane productivity levels in the 40- to 45-moves-per-hour range.”
Contact Mike King at firstname.lastname@example.org.