APM Terminals - Rotterdam Maasvlakte II
The APM Terminals facility at Maasvlakte II

Conventional wisdom in the port industry over the past decade has held that automated box terminals are more efficient and, over the course of a terminal’s life, cheaper to run than those operated manually. However, that view is challenged by recent Moody’s research, reports Maritime Executive. It observes that not only does automated handling technology require a huge initial capital investment, but that many of the side effects – such as incapacitating industrial action by dockers – remain outside those calculations, while the productivity improvements of automated terminals may have been overhyped. “Many analyses that compare productivity metrics between automated and conventional terminals indicate inconsistent and, in a number of cases, negative productivity gains from automation. A recent McKinsey & Co analysis of port automation found that realised productivity gains and operating cost savings did not match expectations.”

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