Under power: electrification trend reaches terminal

Port in the evening with cranes and two ships illustrating Terminal Electrification Challenges.

Author: Oliver Jelsch, Sales Director at akquinet port Consulting GmbH 

In view of climate protection requirements, many terminal operators are dealing with the topic of electrification. We are receiving more and more requests from our customers for solutions for the energy planning and optimization of container terminals. The challenge arises for new terminal projects (greenfield) as well as for existing terminals (brownfield) with conventional diesel equipment. This blog article shows which tasks electrification entails and how these can be solved with the help of simulation software tools. 

The port industry is fundamentally familiar with electrification. Prime movers such as AGVs usually move in the yard with electric drive. The same applies to RTGs and STSs. Conversion to electrified equipment therefore mainly concerns horizontal transport. Special attention must be paid to the conversion: At present, electric vehicles still have a lower range or hourly output than diesel-powered vehicles. Nevertheless, the planning goal is to achieve the same productivity with electrification. 


Charging infrastructure – a key factor in electrification  

Electrically powered equipment requires a charging infrastructure on the terminal. The arrangement and location of the charging stations – whether in new construction or in existing facilities – must be optimally designed so that vehicles can be operated in a time- and energy-saving manner. There are many aspects to consider: 

  • Acquisition of more e-vehicles than diesel vehicles; unless e-equipment has the same endurance 
  • Yet, charging time of the e-vehicles at the plug-in station is longer than the refuelling time of the diesel vehicle  
  • Multiple charging of e-vehicles during the day resulting in high energy consumption that must be provided at a certain point and time on terminal 
  • Battery replacement as an alternative to charging (batteries weighing several tons have to be removed and “threaded” automatically) 
  • Storage space for charged batteries with appropriate safety precautions 
  • Requirements for the charging stations (hydraulic oil, safe operability in rain, humidity and dirt) 
  • When converting a brownfield terminal, the effort of having to subsequently lay power cables in existing infrastructure can be considerable. 
  • In addition, charging stations need space; they must meet safety requirements and be easily accessible for maintenance. 


Charging stations – why the nearest location is not always the best one 

The choice of location for a charging station depends on many factors. Is a location on one of the lanes that must be used intensively by “internal traffic” suitable at all? This can be shown digitally in a so called “heat map”. Another alternative might be to place the charging station on the periphery. Even if this does not seem optimal for charging logistics, the location can be more favorable. This is because laying new structures in the ground of existing terminals often proves to be expensive and complex. Planning and construction tasks are easier to solve when nothing is in the ground yet. Simulation calculations, for example on the additional demand for vehicles and the optimal placement of the charging stations, offer valuable decision-making aids. 


Software simulations as planning and optimisation tools 

Digital tools for evaluating and simulating operational processes complement strategic terminal planning. Our CHESSCON simulation software is aimed globally at greenfield and brownfield projects on CTs. The mapping of realistic scenarios supports operators in optimizing terminals and creating new layout proposals. We are currently developing a new module for CHESSCON Simulation for the electrification of terminals, which will be available soon. It focuses in particular on the behaviour of electrified equipment when it is introduced at existing terminals, but also at greenfield terminals. We see a high demand for fully automated terminals as well as for semi-automated terminals.  


Economical planning of electrification at the terminal with detailed simulation applications:  

Simulations in terminal planning make it possible to check scenarios with regard to costs and effort. For example, it can be determined whether a higher handling volume can be achieved with a new configuration. Even the analysis of seemingly small changes with the help of the tool can be worthwhile.



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