Bigger ships, taller cranes, better crane control

2013-06-03 - Container ships are getting bigger and the ship-to-shore (STS) cranes that load and unload them are getting taller. One of the key technologies in this evolution is the remote control of STS cranes – an ABB innovation that is being rapidly embraced by container terminals worldwide for its ability to increase productivity and provide crane operators with a more ergonomic and comfortable working environment.

By ABB Communications

Huge cranes loading and unloading ships at Busan Newport Terminal, South Korea

CMA CGM  Marco Polo in the Suez Canal


The world’s largest container ship made its first voyage in November last year. The CMA CGM Marco Polo is capable of carrying more than 16,020 TEU containers (twenty foot equivalent units), which is about 1,000 more than the previous record holder, the Maersk E series of 2006-08.

The record, however, will not last long. In July this year, the first of 20 vessels in the new Maersk Triple-E class will enter service, each with a capacity to carry about 18,000 TEUs. Four hundred meters long and 50 meters wide, the Triple-E is a giant in every respect.

It will require 5-7 of the tallest ship-to-shore (STS) cranes on the planet to load and unload these vessels at full capacity, each one capable of lifting a container 52 meters in the air and 20 meters below the quayside – a total lifting height of 72 meters.

For a crane operator sitting in a small crane cabin, far above ground and a long way from the containers, the ability to operate the crane with speed, precision and consistency is almost impossible. It is also physically demanding, frequently causing motion sickness and stress to the back and neck, which often leads to absenteeism.

ABB is the world’s leading supplier of automation and electrical systems for container terminals.



ABB is the first company in the world to develop a solution that enables the crane operators to leave the stressful confines of the cabin and operate the crane remotely from a specially designed control room that can be situated anywhere in the terminal.

The key to this breakthrough are the smart automation features in ABB’s crane systems. These features run the loading and unloading process automatically, under the supervision of crane operators located in a remote control room. This minimizes loading and unloading cycle times by bringing consistency - in speed, efficiency and precision - to crane operations. And, it provides the operators with the best and most ergonomic working environment possible.

Remote crane operating room
ABB piloted the world’s first remotely controlled STS crane in Panama in December 2010. Shortly after in 2012, ABB received three orders from the largest container terminals in Europe and the Middle East – from two terminals at the Maasvlakte 2 extension at the Port of Rotterdam, and from the new Jebel Ali T3 container terminal in Dubai.

All the STS cranes at both Maasvlakte 2 and Jebel Ali T3 terminals will be equipped with ABB remotely operated crane systems, a total of 41 cranes that will start production in 2014. This represents 20 percent of the STS market in 2012 – a remarkable achievement in such a short time and strong confirmation of customer acceptance of the new ABB technology.

ABB has a long and unrivaled track record of innovation in fully automated crane solutions, having pioneered remotely controlled solutions for automatic stacking cranes in container terminals, and with more than 400 automatic stacking cranes in operation worldwide.

Watch a 51/2 minute movie showing ABB's shore-to-ship crane automation.

To learn more about automation solutions for container terminals, including remotely operated cranes, join us at the TOC Container Supply Chain Exhibition and Conference Europe to be held in Rotterdam from June 25-27, 2013 - our booth is C54.

Infographic - remotely operated port cranes. To download original pdf see attachment in right column



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