Article: Cantilever can deliver - upgrade your yard capacity and productivity

Yard operations need to keep up with bigger calls and volatile container volumes. How can the efficiency of yard operations be improved in greenfield terminals? What about in existing terminals with manual operation?

Author: Uno Bryfors, Senior Vice President, ABB Ports

The consequences of bigger ships and bigger but fewer calls on the quay operations has been widely discussed in the industry, but less attention has been paid to the impact on yard operations which for many terminals is an even bigger challenge. It’s important that the yard can deliver the needed increase in productivity and provide cost efficient service for both waterside and landside operations.

Turning space into capacity

Yard space in container terminals is typically a scarce resource. When the yard needs to handle a larger number of containers than before, the way to increase yard capacity is to use efficient automated equipment.

Automated cantilever stacking cranes has proven to be the solution for many terminals around the world in reaching the required capacity and productivity targets. The cantilever stacking cranes are able to handle wider blocks, which means up to 20 per cent more storage capacity within a given space/stacking height compared to yards with RTG operation.

…and to productivity

Higher motion speeds, fast automatic positioning/landing and better scheduling capabilities make automatic and unmanned cantilever stacking cranes more productive than RTGs. In fact, they can improve the average moves per hour up to three times at significantly reduced operational cost.

For instance, Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT) in Panama added six automatic cantilever stacking cranes to their existing RTG operation in 2015. The target was to increase yard capacity and to improve service to the landside truck operations. 15 per cent of the yard space was allocated to the cantilever crane operation. The outcome has met all expectations and MIT reports that the stacking cranes representing only 8 per cent of the total fleet perform 25 per cent of all the moves in the entire operation.

In Asian terminals automated cantilever stacking cranes have been in operation since 2002. These cranes have delivered high productivity, fast integration and short ramp up time to full production. Today they are the preferred yard operation equipment in modern terminals and 136 cantilever cranes are in operation in South Korean terminals alone.

When Sun Kwang opened a new terminal in Incheon to replace an old RTG-terminal, 14 automated cantilever cranes were installed to run the yard operations. The shift from the old terminal to the new was done in just one day and six months after opening the terminal handled twice as many containers as before. As a consequence of the successful first phase, Sun Kwang ordered another 14 automatic cantilever stacking cranes to this terminal, bringing the total to 28.

As these examples imply, the concept of automated cantilever stacking cranes is well-proven, and the availability of standardized interfaces to various terminal operating systems (TOS) ensures a smooth “go live”. The conversion of a RTG terminals to automated cantilever stacking cranes can, as proven in some recent projects, start with just two blocks and four cranes. After the initial deployment, the conversion can continue block by block. This makes conversions feasible for terminals in full production since the construction area can be kept at a minimum and the current operation intact.


Safety should always be at the top of the agenda. Cantilever stacking cranes provide a safer environment for internal and external vehicles since they are separated from the stacks and the crane gantry paths, and the staff supervising the cranes perform their duties from the safety and comfort of a control room.

There are sometimes concerns raised about ground requirements resulting in costly civil works. With the available sensor technology container locations can be measured relative to the crane which allows operation on challenging ground conditions without impacting productivity or stacking precision. No piling is normally needed, which saves cost and speeds up installation.

With a track record of high productivity, yard density and availability automated cantilever stacking cranes provide an efficient yard solution. Deployment in small steps, together with fast integration and ramp up and without affecting the current operation makes these cranes an attractive way to increase yard capacity and productivity in an existing RTG terminals.

The article has also been published in the November issue 2017 of Port Strategy.

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