Last May marked the first time that a shipment was unloaded entirely by automated means in Qingdao. It meant that the Qingdao New Qianwan Automatic Container Terminal became the first Asian container terminal to operate by fully automated means. It is as if operations are controlled by an invisible hand. This is just the beginning though, as Qingdao is soon to be the largest port in the world.
Artificial intelligence and a couple of well-trained Chinese specialists monitor the processes from the office – you’ll have no luck finding any dock workers! The terminal handles a total freight volume of 5.2 million TEU using two fully automated landing stages on a 660-meter-long quay. Seven container cranes, 38 stacking cranes, and 38 electric trucks load containers using full automation here.
A ghostly experience, especially at night
Qianwan, 12:34 am – the terminal is deserted. The cranes measure the exact gripping position for the containers using lasers, but do not rely on any other light sources. They work in darkness at night. In the meantime, driverless trucks transport their cargo between container cranes and stacking cranes. They do this in almost complete silence as the trucks are equipped with an electric motor. That’s why “ghostly” is an extremely appropriate description for this unloading process using top-class technology.
The construction time for the Qingdao New Qianwan Automatic Container Terminal is just as impressive as this full automation system – it only took three years for Asia’s first automated terminal to go from the planning stage to being turned into reality. Similar automated terminals for other Chinese ports are also in the planning and construction stages. Next, an automated terminal is due to enter into operation at the end of the year in Shanghai, which is currently still the largest port in China and the world.
It’s no accident that Qingdao is ahead of Shanghai when it comes to automating its port. This is because China has very big plans for Qingdao, the eighth-largest port in the world in 2015 based on container turnover. The deep-sea port is due to be developed into the world’s largest port by 2020 – surpassing even Shanghai.
Largest port in the world
The Port of Qingdao has traditionally been one of the most important Chinese ports for solid and liquid bulk goods. The Qianwan container port is also just one of four port facilities in Qingdao. There are also the Dagang Port Area and the Huangdao Oil Port – China’s most important port for crude oil imports. At the same time, Qingdao has long been the world’s largest port for importing iron ore. The expansion and excavation of the Dongjiakou deep-sea port facility has now been underway for years. The port basin will be 20 meters deep and it will be ten times the size of the JadeWeserPort. All four port facilities in Qingdao together will form the largest port in the world.