Container Shipping - Automated Terminal Investments


To determine the key inefficiencies preventing port productivity, the risks and consequences associated with the inefficiencies at ports, the areas of terminal and port logistics that are being automated, the consequences and potential risks in balancing automated and un-automated tasks, and associated industry trends and data.

Early Findings

  • The Markets and Markets research group estimates that the semi- and fully-automated container terminal market was worth $9.09 billion in 2018. The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.7% to $10.89 billion in 2023.
  • Automation in ports is targeted at reducing carbon emission, labor costs, and to introduce consistency in handling cargo.
  • The per-year cost from inefficiencies is estimated at $17 billion.
  • When a port is fully automated, labor requirements are reduced by 45%, the port has the potential to be fully operational for the fully 24 hours, seven days a week, and delays and errors due to human interventions are also reduced.
  • Respondents to a McKinsey survey believe that semi- or fully-automated ports are expected in up to half of all greenfield port projects over the next five years, and over half of the respondents expect that 50% of the top 50 ports will automate during the same period.
  • The McKinsey survey also demonstrated that respondents expect increases in productivity between 10% to 35% and a reduction in operational expenses by 25% to 55%.
  • There hasn’t been a huge uptake in automating ports due to unions and exorbitant costs. In 2018, only 3% of ports worldwide were semi-or fully, automated.
  • Aside from high capital costs to implement, some of the challenges faced by ports who have implemented automation include poor data quality, sourcing talent, and operational silos.

Proposed next steps:

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We would recommend additional research to identify 2-3 key inefficiencies at ports that prevent productivity through the provision of a definition, examples, and key statistics for each inefficiency. An overview of 2-3 risks and consequences arising from the key inefficiencies will also be provided. This will include a definition of the risk and examples of its occurrence, along with statistics demonstrating the consequences arising from the port inefficiencies.
We would also recommend continued research to provide information on the percentage of ports in the UK that are investing in port automation and the areas and processes in terminal and port logistics that are being automated. Research into the consequences of, and risks associated with leaving smaller internal tasks un-automated will also be provided.
Finally we recommend research into 2-3 trends in the terminal container shipping industry, including what each trend is, how it’s impacting the industry, and why it’s been identified as a trend.