Giant Automated Container Rack Proves Successful in DP World Trial

Image courtesy SMS Group

Published Aug 18, 2021 11:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

A novel robotic rack system for storing shipping containers has completed a six-month trial period with better-than-expected performance, according to global ports operator DP World. 

Last year, DP World installed its first 800-container "Boxbay" vertical storage system at Jebel Ali, the company's flagship terminal in the UAE. Designed in conjunction with a JV partner, German engineering firm SPS Group, the system has three times as much capacity per acre as a standard stacked container yard with RTGs, according to DP World. It can stack boxes 11 high in steel racks, and its robotic hoists can extract any box at any time, without the restacking moves required at a conventional facility.

The proof of concept-scale Boxbay system began operations early this year, and DP World says that it has completed 63,000 box moves so far. According to the company, the test exceeded expectations, with Boxbay operating more quickly and consuming less energy than anticipated.

The system was modified over the course of the trial, and the changes have improved performance and "significantly reduce" the capex required for future installations, the company said. With these updates, the system was capable of 19 moves per hour at each waterside-facing transfer station for straddle carriers, and about 32 moves per hour at each landside-facing truck crane. 

"In important parameters such as performance, reliability, energy consumption and many more our goals have been exceeded by far. For ports worldwide, this innovative and disruptive technology will not only increase their over-the-quay-wall handling volumes and container storage capacity, but will also allow them to make a further step towards sustainability, as power regeneration and solar panels on the roof help reduce the CO2 footprint to a minimum," said Boxbay chairman and CEO Mathias Dobner.

DP World expressed confidence in the technology's potential, though the parties have not yet detailed plans on next steps after the successful trial. 

“This test proves that Boxbay can revolutionize how ports and terminals operate. The technology we have developed with our joint venture partner SMS group dramatically expands capacity, increases efficiency, and makes the handling of containers more sustainable," said DP World chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem.