The UK port of Felixstowe is to roll out a 100-strong fleet of autonomous battery-powered trucks in September, with hauliers declaring “the AI revolution is truly upon us”.

The Hutchison-owned port struck a deal with manufacturer Westwell, via which it has had 15 AI-controlled trucks operating at its Terminal D in Thailand’s Laem Chabang Port since 2020.

Felixstowe CEO Clemence Cheng said: “The new trucks will increase the efficiency and operational consistency of our container handling, as well as making a significant contribution to decarbonising operations at the port.”

Viewing the trucks as “essential” in its decarbonisation effort, Hutchison plans to also invest in battery-powered tractor units, replacement or re-engineering of its yard cranes and use certified renewable sources for its electricity.

Chair of Westwell, Kenny Tan added: “This contract marks a very important development of Westwell’s Ainergy Strategy, to utilise AI applications to reduce energy consumption and facilitate decarbonisation.

“Hutchison Ports is a significant global partner for Westwell and we will continue to explore opportunities to commercialise new developments to equip global logistics for sustainable development.”

But hauliers have been quick to show concern over the extent to which AI vehicles will replace traditional human-operated vehicles.

One told The Loadstar: “I’m not a luddite and recognise that AI vehicles can work in ports, but there are a few things to consider when rolling these out, not least of which is the unions, which will not be happy about AI replacing human operators. And there are variables, different road conditions being key. There are of course many fewer of these in a closed environment – but the AI revolution is truly upon us.”

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