Patrick’s robotic plans

SHIPPING container handler, Patrick Stevedores, gave the WA shipping industry a peak at its futuristic national stevedoring plans at a presentation to industry and government in Fremantle last week.

The company says its robotic container ship unloaders will revolutionise the stevedoring industry, cutting operation and maintenance costs by up to 40 per cent and improving safety and efficiency on the waterfront.

Since 1996 Patrick, in joint venture with Sydney University and Finnish fork-lift manufacturer Sisu/Kalmar, have been developing the Automated Straddle Carriers (ASC) at its Brisbane terminal in conjunction with the COSCO shipping line.

The plan is to roll-out the system throughout Patrick Stevedores’ Australian operations during the next decade.

After the meeting, Sea Freight Council of Western Australia (SFCWA) executive officer David Marshall said while automation of Patrick’s Fremantle operation appeared to be a way off, the council was supportive of the plan.

He said the meeting was very positive.

“It has received very good industry support,” Mr Marshall said.

“As far as Patrick is concerned, they have put a lot of time and money into the project.

“They expect all terminals to become automated.”

However, he said while Patrick’s presentation was very impressive it was important the system be able to handle current industry requirements.

“Nobody wants to go backwards, it needs to be as good as, or better,” Mr Marshall said.

Currently the national (container) hourly lifts average is 28, while Patrick’s automated system averages 25 lifts an hour.

However, this is with the use of old cranes, and it is hoped new cranes will increase the average to equal or better than the national average. 

Mr Marshall said it was hoped any cost-savings would be passed on to customers.

The development is at the forefront of the industry and is being watched by stakeholders worldwide.

While manual straddle carriers are common in most ports around the world, the technology Patrick Technology has developed removes the need for a manual operation cabin.

The ASC can operate continuously, during periods of reduced visibility, and with no need to cease operations for change of shift or driver breaks.

Each automated carrier will be manufactured by Sisu/Kalmar at a cost of around $1 million, and Patrick has poured money into developing and testing the technology.

Just last month Patrick signed a deal with the Port of Brisbane to spend $100 million to develop its automated container terminal service in Queensland.

Patrick’s Fremantle terminal is anticipated to receive the new straddle carriers in 2008 — one of Patrick’s last terminals behind Brisbane, Sydney and possibly Melbourne.

It is understood that up to 16 automated straddle carriers will be installed at Fremantle.

However, Fremantle Ports said Patrick had not provided any firm details of its plans or timing intentions for further development of cargo-handling infrastructure at its Fremantle container terminal.

Currently there are two main container handlers in Fremantle’s Inner Harbour port – Patrick Stevedores and P&O.

Western Stevedores operates a smaller facility.


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