PD Teesport Terminal Operating System


UK's second largest port...

Teesport, located close to Middlesbrough, is operated by PDT and covers more than 300 hectares of commercial estate near the mouth of the Tees estuary. Key activities on the site are the two Teesport Container Terminals - TCT1 and TCT2 - jointly handling around 500,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of containers annually. Each fully-loaded container can weigh up to 35 tonnes and measure 20 to 45 feet by eight wide and eight tall - typically the 1,280 cubic feet of freight space is called a twenty foot equivalent unit (TEU).

Through TCT1 and TCT2, PDT services the import/export requirements of many international shipping lines, managing up to five inbound sailings per week. Shipping agents manage the end-to-end transit of cargo coming into Teesport on behalf of the shipping lines: the two TCT facilities act as the hub, loading and offloading the containers at dockside and releasing or receiving the containers into an intermodal distribution hub that includes significant road and rail links.

A complex operation, the central requirement of PDT's twin-terminals is to ensure that the right containers are in the right place at the right time, arriving or departing on the right ship, train or road vehicle. Both terminals deal with two types of sea borne cargo: door-to-door short sea and deep sea. Door-to-door short sea is mainly intra-European, typically between Rotterdam or Zeebrugge and Teesport: it requires fast turnaround, often at short notice.


Other operations are made up of multi-port transfers between Teesport and the Mediterranean, Baltic Eastern Europe (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) and further afield: they have a longer lead time, the load planning for which is typically made a month prior to each ship's arrival. In recent years, Teesport has been increasing its deep-sea container flows of intercontinental cargo mainly from the Far East. In each case, the entire ship's payload may need to be stripped or just individual containers loaded or removed. Containers can then go into long-term storage in the two container stacks or are moved directly to the transit facility in readiness for collection to complete their journey by road or rail, often on the same day. Autostore choreographs every movement in both container facilities with built-in system failsafe procedures to prevent costly loading or transshipment errors.

Twin terminal operation...

TCT1's container stack can accommodate 1,872 containers at any given time, arranged on the quay 39 TEUs long by 16 wide and three high. Two giant man-riding KSR and Liebherr cranes with a 48-metre span straddle the container park on rail tracks, loading, unloading and stacking stock one at a time. Autostore directs each crane and container movement via a cab-mounted radio data terminal (RDT), which takes its information feed from the central Autostore server over the wireless network. Once the daily cargo manifest data is in the system, Autostore presents the crane driver with a work list of all the container movements for each job.

TCT2 is located on the site of the old Tees Dock - existing quay space that dates from the 1960s. Refitted and opened to ease the pressure of demand on a congested TCT1, it now has a two-berth capacity and is designed to handle high volumes of container traffic. It now features improved access: with multiple entrances, exits and a central gatehouse, with all container movements controlled and monitored by Autostore. Mirroring the capabilities of TCT1, the new TCT2 container stack accommodates hundreds of containers at any given time, arranged to the rear of the second quay. Each terminal has its own gatehouse.

Importantly for growth, TCT2 also includes substantial PDT-owned brownfield land, lying adjacent that will see a dedicated railhead developed in the near future - specifically to serve TCT2. Designed for deep-sea cargo, TCT2 services several customers: Containerships Group has been moved from TCT1 to TCT2 and other customers in the new facility include CMA CGM (France) and Kursiu Linija (Lithuania).


Using the ship's cargo maifest to create a computerised picture of where every container is on the ship, Autostore calculates exactly where each container should go within the stack and vice versa for loading, where each container is coming from and whereabouts on the ship it needs to be placed. Before each container lift, the driver uses an RDT to enter the minimum amount of data required to uniquely identify the container - a unique six digit alphanumeric code and single check digit from the container. The system can then confirm that the crane has the right container and allows the crane to grab it, lock it in and move it to a pre-determined section of the container stack. The stack is mapped using co-ordinates coded one to 39 and A to X across an x and y-axis. If the container ID does not match the system, then Autostore will not allow the lift to take place, thus removing human error from the process.

Autostore also features a Position Determination System (PDS) that lets the driver know the exact position of the crane relative to the container stack grid, using sensors connected to the wireless network. This information is constantly fed back to the driver via the RDT with the result that the right container makes the right move to the right part of TCT every time. The system operates in reverse for containers coming in by road and leaving by ship.

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Efficient manning...

For such large container facilities that operate 24 hours a day, the two terminals only need between 35 and 40 people to run them - operating on three separate, eight-hour shifts per day. 12 people run the Panamax cranes and operate other man-riding vehicles: 18 Autostore operators have full oversight and control of TCT1 and TCT2 from the gatehouse.

Discharging the entire payload of a ship at berth is easily automated by Autostore - more complex however is partially stripping out a cargo where only selected containers need come ashore. Containers for a partial discharge are loaded at the port of origin in the order they need to be disembarked. Using the ship's manifest that tells the system where each container is on the deck, Autostore quickly locates each container and identifies it using the unique ID number and check digit. Once the ship is berthed, removal of the containers using Autostore is fast and precise.

Productivity is measured in the average speed of container lifts per hour, the operational target for each terminal being 30/30. That's 30 containers lifted off the vessel per hour on arrival and each waiting road vehicle to be loaded and driven away with its collected container within 30 minutes of arrival at the terminal. With Autostore, a record of 50/50 has already been achieved at TCT2. Unloading the ships is critically important: at all times stability of the ship at berth must be maintained. Too much or insufficient weight in the wrong place could cause a dangerous list, break the ship's back or even make it partially capsize. With Autostore, the PDT teams can precisely and easily plan the order of container movements and keep the vessel on an even keel at all times.

With all containers correctly offloaded, they then need to be transshipped. Road hauliers could be single vehicle owner/proprietors or major fleet operators and Autostore needs to ensure not only that the right haulier has the right containers but also guard against bogus attempts to remove containers that will often have a high value payload.

Gatehouse control...

At the gatehouse, each haulier has the identity numbers of the containers for collection plus a unique and confidential PIN issued to them by the shipping agent. These numbers are checked off against Autostore's daily release manifest: if they check out, only then is the container released. As each truck enters either terminal, it is given its own unique ID and directed to the right part of the container stack for fast pick-up. Autostore then instructs the crane operator to pick the container from the stack and load the wagon.

Before the crane can unlock the container onto the wagon, Autostore again checks the container ID against that listed on the work schedule. When the IDs are confirmed, the crane unlocks itself from the container and the wagon makes its way to the exit. The gatehouse team then logs the haulier out of the terminal using the vehicle registration number and a hand-held RDT that lets Autostore make one final check of the container identity. Even with such a high level of security, it typically takes just 10 minutes for the operators to turnaround a collection or delivery.

In addition to despatch by road, Teesport operates daily rail connections for container cargo to Manchester, Glasgow and Workington. For instance, over 150 containers per week are leaving TCT2 for rail transfer; this is expected to rise sharply when the dedicated railhead is introduced as part of PDT's TCT2 expansion strategy to create a truly intermodal facility.

Operationally, TCT2 is virtually identical to TCT1 - with the added learning of five years' front-line experience with Autostore included from start-up. PDT has total transparency of operations between both facilities as well as total compatibility of information and reporting: and because Autostore operates in real-time, operations and capacity can be reconfigured on the fly - in line with the ebbs and flows of daily and weekly demand. In addition, container traffic can be switched between TCT1 and TCT2 in a few mouse clicks.

Despite the advanced nature of Autostore, it remains very easy to use. Windows-based it has a familiar look and feel to everyday computer systems and makes much use of colour-coded screens and 'must-fill' screens to make it as intuitive and straightforward as possible. PDT reports that its container management team is very comfortable with using the system - from gatehouse staff up to senior management.

Business benefits...

Cost management remains the key to maintaining PDT's competitive position. Minimising the cost per lift and the time vessels are in dock rely on maximising the efficiency of all movements; this ensures best service to customers. Autostore's extensive management reporting capabilities enable quick, easy and detailed dissection of cost structures that keep PDT's rates keen. Reliable, high-functionality automation keeps labour costs down while costly human errors have been removed: plus extensive failsafes ensure that TCT1 and TCT2 are not just secure, but very precise.

Autostore automates so much of Teesport's daily operations the facility runs with an absolute minimum of people. This helps keeps labour costs down and makes PDT a highly competitive choice for customers. Autostore has removed human error from the entire process and the failsafe procedures built into ther system mean that the site - and the whole load/offload procedure - is both very secure and very precise.

Additional Autostore modules are being rolled out at Teesport as part of the move to a fully integrated port system. In addition to the Autostore-based warehouse system that is used to manage general and 'de-stuffed' cargo at a new onsite warehousing and distribution facility, there is also its resource management system.

This Autostore module lets the PDT team assess and plan the precise manning levels required for each job and keep close tabs on the cost per container 'lift.' Resource management also covers the man-hours worked by the teams that are now governed by the EU 48-hour Working Time Directive. Autostore allows PDT to track individual hours and to ensure that the workload is spread evenly across all the work gangs servicing the container stack.