Future of Container Terminal Automation

The maritime industry has perhaps been slower than most to embrace container terminal automation, however, confidence in automation technology is now at its highest level ever and the development of automated terminals is quickly approaching the point where the rush is about to begin. ICT Group N.V. is very involved in the Future of Container Terminal Automation.

confidence in terminal automation technology is now at its highest level ever

Seventeen years ago, the innovators at Thamesport began partly automating its terminal operations, a development which was quickly followed by the world’s first fully automated terminal at European Combined Terminals (ECT) at the Port of Rotterdam. Back when Thamesport began operations, the technology available to the design team was very different to that which is available now and the plan required in house development of a whole range of new, purpose built technologies to integrate the automated operation. Nowadays, the challenge is far less significant and almost all such technology is available ‘off the shelf ’ (source: Port Technology).

Future of Container Terminal Automation


  • Container Ships are Getting Bigger
  • Increased Efficiency is Required to handle more containers during same ship call durations (dispatched by TOS)
  • Flexibility up and down the Logistics Chain is extremely important
  • Strict Security Requirements (i.e. CBP ACE)
  • Request for (full) Automated Terminal Systems (Less personnel/ cost savings)
  • Cranes Utilize Maintenance Tracking Systems
  • Cranes Connected to Terminal Operating System to coordinate with other automated systems
  • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) utilizing wireless dispatch and a variety of guidance systems (inertial, gyroscopic, GPS, transponders in pavement)
  • Enhanced efficiency by placing container in Container Stack Buffer and returning to the STS crane loading area (Auto Straddle Carrier)


ICT Group offers high level technical solutions in information and communication technology for several functional areas. ICT is active as ISV, software developer and system integrator in mainly Western Europe and headquartered in Barendrecht which is next to Rotterdam.The services provided by ICT are focussed on projects for the realization of system- and business solutions, maintenance of IT systems and secondment of highly educated and skilled staff. ICT Group N.V. noted at the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (AEX) is focused on several markets.


The ICT Group is involved in developing the planning and control software, customs services and the e-services for all ECT stakeholders since 1991 and is with more than thirty separated employees specialized and active in mainport- and inland terminal software projects, connectivity, maintenance and support. Enthusiastic employees have gained domain expertise since the start of the Container Terminal Operations in Rotterdam.

ICT brings in a lot of experience in automated equipment control. ECT at Maasvlakte Rotterdam was one of the first container terminals using high tech automated equipment, such as Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and Automated Stacking Cranes (ASCs).


Order Management e-Portal (OMS) | This portal is part of the ICT Supply Chain Management Suite, An internet e-portal is necessary for order entry, tracking & tracing of vessels and containers. For example: users are ECT and RWG container terminal at Maasvlakte II, Rotterdam.

This platform is also used to realize services to support ‘hinterland’ initiatives that offers shipping lines, forwarders, shippers and transport companies a comprehensive range of services for the fast, safe and efficient transportation of containers between the deepsea terminals and the European hinterland and ‘the last mile’.

ICT Group Smarter Container Terminals offers efficient transportation of containers between the deepsea terminals and the European hinterland

Supply Chain partners and parties are able to use their own logins ‘to manage and exchange’ order data. But also blocking and unblocking container data and non-conformity registrations, like damaged containers (including visuals). This portal is also used for broadcasting purposes and messaging services between Supply Chain parties.

Future of Container Terminal Automation

Internet- and Intranet web sites | ICT has developed the Internet- and Intranet web sites for terminal operators. The Internet and Intranet are closely integrated and linked to each other and they are build in the same house style.Smart Container Depot Management | Container location & stock control, internal transport, LSP yard pre- & on-carriage.

Process Control Systems | For automated terminals a process control system will be available to control AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicle) and ASCs (Automated Stacking Cranes). A Process Control System (PCS) is designed for high throughput automated container terminals, equipped with ASCs and AGVs, combined with manned equipment. Operations are based on the logistical decoupling of waterside container flows and landside container flows. Containers are stored in an automated stack.

Future of Container Terminal Automation

AGVs are routed automatically by PCS for optimal performance of the ‘Ship to shore’ operation. ASCs operations and stack usage are automatically optimized to support STS (Ship to shore cranes) and AGV operations at waterside and to serve SC’s (Straddle Carriers) operations at landside. Operators can use an extensive set of screens and functions to configure and influence the execution of the container handling process.

Smart Terminal Operator App | The portal is supported by great Apps for IOS, Android and Windows Phone. This App displays news (for example: gate times, maintenance slots, etc.) that can be managed in the portal and it contains actual information about vessels, trains, trucks and containers. Through push notifications users are alerted in time if there appears new content or changes in arrival times and subscribed containers.
Smart Truck Gatekeeper App | Interface with various subsystems of the horizontal transporters (e.g. GPS devices, truck status data) and provide optional functionality to support and register transport information regarding the equipment and container status.

Smart Barge Operator App | App for barge skippers to centralize all necessary information (cockpit) of the next call, fuel consumption, weather information and shipping messages from local authorities. Smart Customs Management | Goods that are intended to leave the customs territory remain under Customs supervision until they can leave. The Export Control System (ECS) is a system deployed by Customs to exercise supervision. Smart Integrations, connectivity and IoT | ICT Smart Logistics Solutions works seamless with ERP-systems. Experience on customer used systems, lead to smart integrations and optimizations to get an efficient operating terminal which provide the necessary data and information to the stakeholders. ICT uses the service oriented architecture (SOA) approach to improve security and make systems scalable. ICT features integrations with a lot of legacy systems and other systems. Microsoft BizTalk (ESB), SharePoint products and other equivalents, are used as backbone in the ICT terminal operator suite. Data management and ICT Smart Insights | All kind of performance reports including TPDR reports. They are generated or composed by ICT data management software and viewing is possible in many formats. Customs, hazardous goods reports and more.



Intelligent Containers (e.g. Track & Trace, Data transponders), Fully Automated STS cranes, Mag-Lev replaces AGV, TOS using Quantum Computing, Unmanned Aerial Spreaders, Large Lashed Container Blocks, OCR-handling, Blockchain technology, Hinterland optimization and decision support (APS), etc.

All of these technologies will require advanced computing power and a high level of systems integration.

So, as you can read, ICT Group is very involved in the Future of Container Terminal Automation.


Some references – exposing the Future of Container Terminal Automation – are Hutchison Ports ECT Rotterdam (ECT Delta Terminal), PSA Group (PSA Antwerp), APM Terminals Europe (APM Terminal Rotterdam) en RWG (Rotterdam World Gateway). Partners in RWG are: MOL, HMM, CMA CGM en DP World.

Author is Harry Luijk – Logistics & Supply Chain Professional and Partner at Merlyn Consult (This article is written during an assignment at client ICT Group N.V.).

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