Hamburg digitises container terminal

At Hamburg's Altenwerder terminal, HHLA and MAN launch test for automated and autonomously driving trucks. (credit: HHLA / Thies Rätzke)

German port operator Hamburger Hafen und Logistik (HHLA) is working on digitising its port operations. At a press briefing attended by DPC in December, HHLA presented its digital strategy. This is based on three pillars: ecosystem, know-how and products.

Within the last one, the port wants to create an intelligent infrastructure within the port, including its administration. An example for this is the use of drones to inspect the port and define maintenance needs of equipment. The port already inspects quay walls and cranes with this technology, and plans to do floor, rail track and conveyor plant scans for cracks and damages.

It also plans to use drones for security monitoring and to transport documents and spare parts around the HHLA complex.

Another example of the port’s future proofing, is the ongoing project to develop driverless lorries that navigate through the port area, whose cargo operations are already automated. The main challenge here is to “Blending manned traffic and autonomous trucks in urban traffic settings,” said Jan Bovermann, head of digital corporate development at HHLA, at the briefing.

Initially, the project framework envisages two prototype trucks equipped with the necessary electronic automation systems. They will enter the A7 motorway at a junction close to container terminal Altenwerder, then autonomously handle discharge and loading within the container terminal. The project is divided into three phases. In the preparatory phase, which was completed at the end of 2018, the technical framework and a digital terminal map were developed.

The testing phase has been running since January and is expected to run until June 2020. This will cover the technical development of the system on the MAN testing grounds in Munich, in accordance with the specific requirements identified in the preparatory phase.

A trained safety driver will always be present in the vehicle during this phase to monitor the automation systems.

HHLA hopes that, in future, automated driving functions will provide relief and support for truck drivers during their work. “For example, assuming the legal fundamentals are in place, the driver could process freight documents during fully automated motorway travel or simply take a rest. In the event of autonomous loading and unloading, the driver can leave the vehicle and use the time for legally prescribed breaks. Other potential benefits include increasing efficiency through automated defensive driving. This significantly reduces fuel consumption and can also positively influence the general flow of traffic. Last but not least, the project partners expect improved safety in all areas,” HHLA states.

The Hamburg TruckPilot project is part of a partnership between the City of Hamburg and the Volkswagen Group.