Port of Rotterdam Suspends Plan for Unmanned Transport of Containers

Rotterdam delays unmanned transport of containers around port
The road loops around this section of the port connecting the terminals (Port of Rotterdam)

Published May 24, 2021 4:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Rotterdam announced that it is suspending the current tender process for the selection of unmanned transports to operate on a dedicated road connecting the container terminals and other operations in the Maasvlakte region of the port. The project had been billed as a major advancement and demonstration in improving port efficiency and automation.

“At present, there are too many risks and uncertainties standing in the way of the development of a sufficiently competitive product,” the port wrote in its announcement. “The tender procedure did produce a technically feasible proposal from a supplier of autonomous vehicles,” but the port noted that the projects also had to consider the operational and financial risks.

The port launched the tender program in June 2020 saying that it was working to provision a new transport service that enabled container terminal operators at Maasvlakte to exchange containers on a dedicated road. The tender was looking for the supplier of hybrid transport vehicles that could run both completely autonomous or operated by a driver. The port said it would be up to the individual operator if they chose to operate fully autonomously or with a driver.

The Container Exchange Route is a dedicated, internal road at the port connecting the five container terminals. It stretches more than 10 miles and was developed to provide a swifter, less costly, and more efficient means to transfer containers around the port. The port said that the project will also reduce congestion around the port and contribute to improvements in the port’s environment.

The plan had called for the construction of the Container Exchange Route to be completed in the spring of 2021. They anticipated testing the transfer system in 2021 and beginning commercial operations before the end of the year.

“The Port of Rotterdam Authority believes that there are openings and prospects for fully autonomous transport from stack to stack in the future, and it will continue to consult with potential suppliers and stakeholders to see how to achieve that goal in due course,” they wrote in announcing the suspension of the tender.

The port authority says that in the coming months it will consult with parties about how the CER can be used for manned container transport.