Did you know that the port of Rotterdam is not only home to ultra-modern container terminals, but also to a truly cutting-edge dry bulk terminal? As we speak, the coal and iron ore company EMO (Europees Massagoed-Overslagbedrijf) is rounding off a pilot project at Maasvlakte that involves the fully-automated offloading of dry bulk vessels. This is one of the final steps in the complete automation of Europe’s largest dry bulk terminal.
“We’ve been working on the automation of our terminal for some time now,” says EMO’s Projects & ICT Manager Ton van der Leer. “Over the past few years, we have already fully automated our stacker-reclaimers and coal wagon loaders, as well as all our conveyor belts and the associated routes. Right now, we are working on the automation of our unloaders for sea-going vessels. We expect the first crane to become operational in early 2016. It will be joined by the other terminal cranes in the period that follows. Shortly after that, we will also start on the automated loading system for sea-going vessels and inland vessels. This is another technology that we are still testing at present. Right now, our operator in the control room can already direct 10 fully-automated machines that store and tranship incoming iron ore and coal. In the near future, this number will be almost doubled.”
Fully-automated transhipment of coal and ore
“Offloading isn’t necessarily faster when it is automated rather than done directly by a crane operator,” says Van der Leer. “However, it does offer the advantages of increased flexibility in a contracting labour market, as well as allowing us to respond more effectively to peak-hours and prepare ourselves better for market fluctuations. In addition, automation improves general safety conditions and reduces damage counts.”
And EMO hasn’t stopped at just automating the physical facilities at its terminal. For example, the company has developed its own Terminal Management System, a pioneering application that supports the client order, planning, production and invoicing process and allows the user to continuously monitor stock at the terminal in real time with the aid of 3D scans.
Prepared for the future
Van der Leer: “Dry bulk transhipment has the image of being dirty and old-fashioned. But we’ve moved far beyond that at our terminal. Our facilities are at least as modern as those found at most container terminals – and in some areas, we even surpass them.”
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