Navtech Radar puts figures on the benefits of port automation including reduced operating expenses and labour costs

Navtech builds the business case for automation

Regular readers will recognise the name Navtech Radar from our recent update on Oxbotica. In May, the two Oxfordshire-based companies joined forces to launch Terran360, promoted as the world’s first all-weather radar localisation solution for industrial autonomous vehicles.

While self-driving cars await a legislative framework, this ground-breaking technology is already being deployed in off-road settings. Ports are a good example and Madelen Shepherd, Growth Marketing Manager at Navtech, sets out a strong business case.

MS: “Ports are complicated operations and automation can massively improve efficiency, so we’ve been doing some financial analysis on the quantification of value. The benefits fall into three main areas: 1) reduced operating expenses; 2) reduced labour requirements; and 3) productivity increases.”

According to Navtech’s research, benefits resulting from port automation include a 31% reduction in operating expenses, a 40% reduction in labour costs and a 21% increase in productivity.

Navtech on port automation
Automation at ports delivers significant cost savings

MS: “This kind of financial modelling is important for Navtech to demonstrate that our products are viable, but it also provides a compelling argument for automation in general.

“The findings are based on averages from multiple quotes, although there was quite a large range on the reduction in operating expenses, from around 25% up to 50%.

“Currently, only 3% of the world’s ports are automated, but the rate of growth is now exponential. Key drivers for this include the rise of megaships and increasing next day deliveries.

“About 80% of the world’s goods go through ports. There’s already time pressure on everything and the increasing global population equals ever increasing demand.  

“New ports are a massive investment. For example, the first phase of the Tuas project in Singapore, which will create the world’s largest container terminal, is nearly complete and has already cost $1.76bn. There are three more phases to come.

“Of course, any cost benefit analysis must also include risks. If you’re retrofitting an existing port, how much is installation going to disrupt operations? What about the social impact of job losses or a shift in employment profile? Are the new jobs higher paid or more secure? How much time and money would an infrastructure-free solution save in operational downtime during installation compared to an infrastructure dependent solution?

“Automation has created so-called ghost ports, which are largely human-free, so there are clear safety benefits. And with automation you get remote operation, so maybe one person can now operate two straddle carriers.

“Also, operating bulky vehicles like terminal tractors can require an additional member of staff to supervise the movement. By using technological solutions – installing sensors which act beyond human capabilities – that’s no longer necessary.

“Terran360, an infrastructure-free localisation solution, delivers a detailed 360-degree map made up of around 400 slices and uploads this to a cloud-based server. The vehicle drives down a route continually scanning all these different landmarks.

“We’re always looking for new partners in the shipping world and other industrial settings. This kind of radar is perfect for self-driving cars too, so that’s another exciting growth area.”