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I've talked about containerization on this channel before,
but this video is different because it includes the phrase
"hundred-tonne autonomous robots".
New Zealand is a long way from almost everywhere else on the planet.
Humans only reached here about 700 years ago.
If you look at a globe of the earth,
in almost every direction for thousands of miles
there's nothing but ocean.
Which means that the Ports of Auckland here
and the other ports like it all around the country
are vital to keeping New Zealand running.
- Well the fantastic thing about the Ports of Auckland
is that we're right in the middle of the city,
but the downside of that is that we're quite constrained.
We're not in the sixties when you could just pave over everything and build out into the harbour.
We can't expand anymore, so we've got a fixed footprint,
not so great when your city's growing at a massive rate of knots.
When your get your head around the fact that you can't do the old fashioned things
like just keep reclaiming land,
it becomes quite an exciting challenge.
How do we put the maximum number of containers
through this little plot of land?
- Like every other major port in the world,
almost all the goods that arrive or leave here
are going to be in a standardised shipping container.
For incoming goods, once a container has been unlocked from the ship,
these giant quay cranes take it and move it down to ground level.
And then it's moved to a holding area by a straddle carrier,
ready for a truck or a train to take it on the last miles of its journey.
Those straddle carriers look like something
out of an old Gerry Anderson show, but they're real.
They weigh 70 tonnes before they even pick up a container
and the newest straddle carriers
which are being tested right here, right now,
are automated.
Fully loaded, that is a hundred-tonne robot
just moving around at speed.
- We are automating while still operating the terminal,
it's an absolutely crazy thing to do
but we have to do it because of our space limitations.
So it's a bit like, you're having open heart surgery
while you're still playing tennis.
So we're now getting robots which can work much more steadily and stack higher
and stack closer together.
And so we can get a lot more capacity out of our same piece of land.
- It's really really precise.
The A-STRADs can stack containers
with an accuracy of a couple of centimetres.
That actually can pose a problem because the wear and tear on the pavement
is always in the same place at the same time.
So we've got a fairly cool solution to that,
which is called stack shuffling.
So in a manned terminal, of course for the straddle operators to know where
to put the containers, we paint lines on the ground.
Over a number of years that wears out the pavement.
We get ruts where the straddles drive repetitively
and damage on the asphalt where the container corners land all the time.
And of course that then requires repair, which is disruptive and expensive.
So with A-STRADS they refer of course to an electronic map,
they need no lines on the ground.
So that enables us to then move the container stacks just a little bit
and that spreads the wear and tear on the pavement
over a much longer period of time.
- GPS isn't quite precise enough for this job,
and there's a lot of flat steel surfaces that could reflect or block those signals.
So there's a local positioning system installed here as well.
Synchronised transmitters all around the port
work like miniature GPS satellites.
And equipment on each straddle carrier triangulates the location
using the light speed delay from each one.
Which is literally sub-nanosecond precision.
They don't just look at the timing signal itself,
they track the phase of each transmitter's carrier signal.
- The Locata system is our system for the positioning of the machines.
We have these two antennas on top of each machine in order to also be aware
of the orientation of the machine at each moment.
But it's a local system.
Everything which is directly related to the main safety of the straddle carrier
is on the straddle carrier.
Also the navigation itself happens on the straddle carrier.
- Whilst we're automating a large part of our operation,
we're actually keeping people in a part of it.
So we'll actually have interactions between
manned straddle carriers and automated straddle carriers, and that's never been done
in this way anywhere else in the world before.
The system has multiple layers of safety.
The first one is the simplest, which is we put a big fence around the terminal
to keep people out.
Beyond that, then, we've got a computer system
that monitors where all the machines are all the time
so it's both manned and the automated straddles.
It manages the interactions between those machines,
and it's a standalone fail-safe system.
And then as sort of last layer of defence,
the A-STRADs have laser scanners on them
which will detect the presence of an obstacle
in front of the machine and stop it before there's a collision.
- We've got a different type of automation here.
We have straddle carriers that are only automated in part of the terminal.
And the reason we've done that is again the throughput.
So our crane drivers are really fast,
under the crane we've got lots and lots of steel,
it's really hard to get those signals and automate.
So by keeping manual operations underneath these cranes here,
and then automating the yard, we get more capacity.
The robots do the really boring stuff like moving containers around,
digging out the bottom one to put it on a truck,
and the people do the really tricky stuff.
You know, the technology will no doubt improve,
but for now, that mixture of people and robots is the perfect mix.
- Thank you to all the team at the Ports of Auckland.
Pull down the description for more about them, and their work.