Saturday 5 October 2019

Tuas Port to be world's largest fully automated terminal when completed in 2040

Mega port will be twice the size of Ang Mo Kio and create new jobs for workers
By Fabian Koh, The Straits Times, 4 Oct 2019

The new Tuas Port will use automated technology to carry out its key operations, as Singapore sets out to reinvigorate and re-imagine the maritime industry which employs 170,000 people here.

When fully completed in 2040, the mega port will be the world's largest fully automated terminal.

It will be twice the size of Ang Mo Kio, and boast features such as automated wharf and yard functions and full-electric automated guided vehicles, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday at the ground-breaking of port operator PSA's new terminal.

Located in the south-western corner of Singapore, the port will vastly ramp up Singapore's cargo capacity and create new and different jobs in spite of the automation.

Tuas Port will also be able to cater to the demands of the world's largest container ships, with 26km of deep-water berths.

Besides just handling containers, the port will have space set aside for companies to be located, a move that could improve the links between port and businesses.

"It also gives us more room to create customised logistical arrangements, for example, inter-modal sea-air cargo to take advantage of our air hub as well," said PM Lee.

The new port is crucial as the maritime industry contributes about 7 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product.

The contribution could scale up as the new port will be able to handle 65 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually - almost double of last year's 36 million TEUs.

TEU is the unit of measurement for cargo capacity.

PM Lee said the move to Tuas goes beyond just having a larger terminal.

"Tuas Port is also an opportunity to peer over the horizon and rethink the future of shipping. Because the port will be on a completely greenfield site, we can design from a clean slate and make innovation and sustainability key features."

He emphasised that PSA makes "a much wider contribution to the economy than most other companies". At the same time, it needs to draw the best minds to maintain its dynamism and to match its competitors, which are also investing in automation and expanding rapidly, he added.

The mega port is being developed in four phases, with construction work on the second phase having begun in July this year. The whole project will cost over $20 billion.

Its first berths are scheduled to start operating in 2021. PSA's three city terminals at Tanjong Pagar, Keppel and Brani will move by 2027. By 2040, Pasir Panjang Terminals will be consolidated at the mega port too.

With the port's capacity almost doubling, more jobs are likely to be created despite the automation.

But Dr Loh Hui Shan, lecturer in the logistics and supply chain management programme at the Singapore University of Social Sciences' business school, explained that these are likely to be new types of jobs for which port workers may have to learn new skills and become more comfortable with technology.

Dr Loh also said Tuas Port is special as it is "starting from scratch instead of improving on a pre-existing berth".

It also opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of the sustainability of the facility, she added.

"With a new area, expansion is not really constrained by the land or the sea. You can do reclamation works, for example."

The Tuas project also has another advantage.

"We will get to experiment, using the existing sites at Pasir Panjang, for example, as test beds for new technology, before moving them over to the real operations at Tuas," she said.

Automation and tech to be hallmark of new Tuas Port
Even as Tuas Port adopts tech, maritime industry will still require talent to fill jobs
By Fabian Koh, The Straits Times, 4 Oct 2019

You will see many machines at work when the Tuas Port fully begins operations in 2040.

But you will probably not see fewer humans, though the machines such as drones and self-driving vehicles will do some of their work for them.

Automated guided vehicles will ply the port facility. Highly manoeuvrable, they can self-navigate to within 5cm accuracy. They are also fully electric and energy efficient, as they can operate for up to five hours with 20 minutes of charging.

Drones will be deployed to inspect equipment, check infrastructure, respond to incidents and also for surveillance of the port perimeter, among other things.

Tuas Port plans to be efficient and environmentally sustainable, with smart engineering and power management platforms.

For example, data analytics will be used to make maintenance schedules for equipment and parts more efficient, reducing unnecessary inspections and downtime.

Mr Peter Voser, group chairman of PSA International, said the Tuas project is an opportunity for PSA to take the lead in transforming the industry by going beyond just physical port infrastructure into complementary logistics capabilities.

"As we continue to pioneer new and exciting integration concepts in the supply chain, we see them as enablers of tight global connections, as well as supporting Singapore as a key international maritime centre and a centre for technology research and development," said Mr Voser.

At the port's ground-breaking ceremony yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said PSA needs to maintain its dynamism in the face of global competition, and encouraged young Singaporeans to consider careers in the maritime industry, which he called "critical" to Singapore's economy.

This includes jobs in PSA, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, or companies in the industry, including start-ups that have been incubating in Pier71, a hub focused on the maritime industry.

"You have the opportunity to write the next chapter of Singapore's maritime history, and fill it with your hopes and dreams," he said.

Dr Loh Hui Shan, lecturer in the logistics and supply chain management programme at the Singapore University of Social Sciences' business school, said automation would not take away jobs.

"It assists humans. Accidents can happen at the port. For example, there are cranes picking up containers and moving them overhead. Automation aims to lower any potential dangers that a port worker may be exposed to. So, from the human safety point of view, it is ideal for automation to take over certain tasks in such working environments."

She added that it can improve productivity as well. For example, instead of having one crane operator controlling one crane, that same person can now control multiple cranes at once.

Retraining and skills upgrading will be needed for staff to be able to perform the new types of jobs, added Dr Loh.

Tuas mega port: Keeping the ships sailing in – why the mega port matters

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