Singapore is future proofing its ports with automation, smart technology and energy efficiency
Singapore currently has five container terminals – Tanjong Pagar, Keppel, Brani, and Pasir Panjang Terminals 1 and 2. But the city-state is replacing these with a new development, Tuas Port, which will be the world’s largest fully automated port on completion.
Development of Phase 1 started in 2016, and 2019 saw the commencement of Phase 2 of four development stages. Once Tuas Port is completed, all container operations in Singapore will be consolidated at the terminal, which will be able to handle up to 65M 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) per year. This contrasts with 2018’s figure of 36M TEU.
The port will open progressively from 2021, when two ship berths will enter operation. By 2027, operations from Tanjong Pagar, Keppel and Brani will move to Tuas and by 2040, the project’s scheduled completion date, the Pasir Panjang terminals will also be consolidated.
The final caisson of Phase 1 was installed in April 2019, followed in July by installation of the first caisson in Phase 2. These large watertight structures keep water out by air pressure and enable work to be carried out faster than using traditional methods such as piling. Phase 2 represents the largest of the project’s phases, with 387 hectares to be reclaimed to construct an 8.6-km wharf structure with 227 caissons to be fabricated on site. Phase 2 will add 21M TEU capacity.
Speaking at PSA’s ‘Towards Tuas’ bicentennial event in October 2019, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said “While scale is critical to competitiveness, the move to Tuas goes beyond just having a bigger terminal. Tuas Port is also an opportunity to peer over the horizon and rethink the future of shipping.
“Because the port will be on a completely greenfield site, we can design from a clean slate and make innovation and sustainability key features. Tuas Port will also give us sufficient capacity to anchor shipping lines and alliances and host the world’s biggest container ships.”
Automated technology will be key to Tuas Port’s operations. This will include unmanned vehicles such as automated yard cranes, drones, data analytics and driverless trucks for port transport. Such technology will be controlled by an operations centre, enabling equipment to be monitored and operated from an office.
Safety will be enhanced by using drones to perform tasks previously dependent upon people, such as repairs and fault assessment at heights.
All of this will be enhanced by Singapore’s move to 5G technology, and in June 2019 PSA appointed telecommunications specialists M1 and Singtel to conduct 5G trials and to work on developing smart technology-enabled operations.
The port’s waters will be managed using advanced port operation systems such as the Next Generation Vessel Traffic Management System, which can detect hotspots early and advise vessels on the most efficient routes for safe, minimally congested berthing approaches.
“We have set aside space in Tuas to integrate the port with industry, so companies can benefit from being close to the port and its wider ecosystem, like the way we have an industrial area around Changi Airport. We hope such co-location will synergise business opportunities and improve services, and this will give us more room to create customised logistical arrangements, for example intermodal sea-air cargo to take advantage of our air hub,” added Mr Lee.
Six examples of PSA’s automated and smart port technology
PSA has developed an automated double-trolley quay crane with an outreach of 25 container rows across and a lifting height of 55 m. Concurrent development is taking place on video analytics and robotics-based solutions for wharfside coning and deconing operations.
Rail-mounted gantry cranes
PSA’s automated rail-mounted gantry (aRMG) cranes are enabled by a network of optical cameras, laser sensors and communications protocols. The aRMG cranes are fully electric and have regenerative drive systems that return power to the grid during container lowering movements. Specialists will monitor multiple aRMGs from a command centre, aided by AI-based planning platforms to forecast and optimise yard operations at the port.
Automated guided vehicles
Transporting containers from wharf to yard will be undertaken by driverless automated guided vehicles (AGVs). These will be bi-directional and equipped with all-wheel steering. The AGVs will be powered by a fully electric drivetrain with regenerative braking capabilities, making them zero direct emissions vehicles. A network of fast-charging portals will power the fleet, which will also benefit from an intelligent fleet management and optimisation system.
Predictive and prescriptive maintenance
Tuas Port will use both predictive and prescriptive maintenance to reduce equipment downtime and increase engineering team productivity. Sensors and data analysis will allow failures to be pre-empted before they occur, and AI and machine learning will be applied to data sets to provide a deeper analysis of root causes impacting on reliability.
AI-enabled terminal efficiency
PSA’s terminal operating system (TOS) will orchestrate operations at Tuas Port. TOS uses data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimise automated operations and increase terminal efficiency. Human operators and managers will receive data-driven insight via user-friendly interfaces and dashboards, enabling better decision-making.
Smart power grid
A smart grid will power Tuas Port’s network of buildings and equipment. This will allow better management of the port’s energy consumption across peaks and troughs, reducing power-related disruptions. The smart grid will be supplemented by renewable energy such as solar power, and fuels such as LNG that burn more cleanly than traditional hydrocarbon-based fuels.
Jurong Port is Singapore’s only multi-purpose port, handling bulk, breakbulk and containerised cargo. Its main gateway terminal welcomes more than 15,000 vessels each year, both regional and international.
The port operates the Offshore Marine Centre, a multiuser waterfront facility that provides port services to companies engaged in fabricating offshore and marine equipment, and two separate lighter terminals for vessels delivering spares and provisions to ships calling at Singapore.
Jurong Port features Singapore’s largest single-site solar energy facility, with a peak capacity of 9.65 MW. This represents the world’s largest port-based solar facility. Installing the solar capacity cost S$30M (US$22M), with capital expenditure from installation to maintenance covered by Sunseap, a local solar leasing company. In return, Sunseap is entitled to tax breaks and other solar-associated financial incentives. The plant generates more power than required by Jurong Port, enabling the surplus to be sold to Singapore’s grid.
Jurong Port chief technical officer Tan Wee Meng told local media that solar energy is projected to eventually become cheaper than power from the national grid, with cost savings generated enabling the port to better plan long-term finances.
He added “Globally, there is a move towards greener environments. Jurong Port has to make sure the energy we consume can be sustainably provided, that is why we have chosen solar.”
Loading computer developments boost productivity
Both port and ship efficiency have been boosted by recent developments with lashing rules and loading computers.
New lashing rules incorporate lashing patterns for larger ships and higher stacks. Furthermore, the new lashing rules also consider route-specific and weather-specific features.
Navis’ MACS3 loading computer has incorporated the latest updates of lashing rules of all major classification societies. Navis product manager MACS3 Gerald Lange explains “By utilising the lashing updates, StowMan and MACS3 assist the ship operator to load more flexibly and increase cargo intake to improve vessel utilisation.”
To optimise the information flow between maritime stakeholders, Navis has supercharged the MACS3 loading computer by making key calculation results of the loading computer available in the cloud.
Launched in September, MACS3 Connected means ship managers can easily see current and historical loading conditions, says Navis product manager cloud services Bastian Gehnke. He adds “In case of emergency response, much faster data exchange and data availability can now be granted. Sending loading conditions as a pdf via email between the vessel and the office ashore, while not being sure if this is the latest version, can be now banned to the past.”
Navis’ Control Center & Distributed Services is now also available for StowMan. This new application transforms the stand-alone stowage planning tool into a connected client-server setup that helps users to standardise and centralise file storage, to synchronise and connect between various workstations, users and departments and to replace manual software installations by automated deployment.
Navis product manager stowage Jes Tom Regner sums up “The requirements of ship planning confront ship planners with very frequent updates to stowage plans as they handle many ships and many terminal calls in parallel. Navis allows planners to focus exclusively on planning rather than administering the working environment.”
Cell guide design development ramps up efficiency
The growing number of 45-ft containers and larger ships has had an impact on cell guide development.
Cell guides are used under deck, on deck or in hatch coverless vessels, encompassing tank top to uppermost containers.
MacGregor senior naval architect Kari Tirkkonen comments “Traditional cell guide design was based on fixed locations of standard and high cube containers, but we recommend calculating cell guides for any random stowage of different heights of containers.”
He adds that the cell guide design needs to cater for possible different widths of containers by adjustable cells or by solutions with loose lashings.
Highlighting the impact of recent developments, Mr Tirkkonen says “For Europe trades, the growing number of 45-ft containers makes challenges for the cell guide design, because using movable cell guides or other solutions need to be considered.”
In the case of too-high stacks considering container strength, he says the MacGregor stack splitter can be used to cut the stack in cells. “The stack splitter is made in a compact cast design,” Mr Tirkkonen says.
Speaking about the impact of ever-larger container ships, Mr Tirkkonen says “Basically when the cell guides are higher, the complexity of random stowage has to be considered and the strength of cell guides has to be ensured, considering the connection to the ship’s structures.”
Other developments relate to cargo loading software. Mr Tirkkonen says that previously, the stack weights of containers in cell guides were based on tables provided by classification societies. But now he says “Today, on deck and in hold, MacGregor software can take care of the correct and safe planning of the loading in cells with or without stack splitters and also leave clear documentation.”