May 12, 2021 | Tony Rigoni
Shipping ports are extremely busy areas, with workers trying to move shipping containers between ship and shore as quickly as possible. Today’s shipping vessels can easily hold 10-25k TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent) which requires thousands of containers that need to be moved from each vessel and, as larger ships are to support a global economy, those numbers are likely to grow.
To get the work done, ports are full of moving equipment, vehicles, and of course, people working to move containers as quickly as possible to keep supply chains moving. Because of the high-volume nature of shipping ports, there are inherent safety risks associated with the heavy machinery, vehicles, and human operators involved. They all need to act in concert to avoid costly accidents that can cause injury, damage goods, and create lengthy delays, which means implementing effective safety strategies.
More than half of container terminal insurance claims are related to crane and vehicle accidents, so certainly, there’s a case to be made for port automation. But, with a very small percentage of ports currently automated, there’s a clear need for technology to support manual operations today.
Ports need a solution that can provide highly accurate measurements, identify and track objects, and monitor motion to alert personnel when an accident is likely – but while it can still be avoided. That’s where LiDAR can play an instrumental role in increasing port safety. The 2D & 3D imaging created by LiDAR point clouds provide the accurate measurements needed to ensure safe and efficient port operation, and LiDAR offers significant advantages over traditional technologies.
LiDAR sensors have a significantly longer range – up to 200m – than cameras or radar. This allows ports to achieve maximum coverage with fewer sensors. But, perhaps, more importantly, increased range means incident warnings can happen earlier than with traditional solutions, giving operators more time to react and avoid them. In addition, 3D imaging creates highly accurate data for operational decisions.
Unaffected by environmental factors
Unlike other technologies, LiDAR is not susceptible to lighting or most other environmental conditions. The sensors provide highly accurate data in any lighting conditions (pitch black to full sunlight), ensuring data is available at all times and reducing the probability of incidents regardless of environmental conditions. Camera systems, on the other hand, are impacted by low lighting, shadows, glare, and other variables.
LiDAR sensors can be mounted in a variety of locations, including on cranes and vehicles, as well as stationary infrastructure, to provide complete coverage for monitoring activity in all areas. Because of their range, combined with 360-degree coverage, fewer sensors are needed to monitor port areas, reducing installation and maintenance costs.
Combining highly accurate LiDAR sensors with smart perception software gives port management and operators actionable intelligence in real-time, allowing them to react instantly to imminent safety risks. It also allows them to better understand port traffic patterns to create the most efficient and safe traffic flows.
The real-time data collected by LiDAR sensors provide a detailed and highly accurate 3D picture of activity in ports. With sensors placed in various locations throughout their facilities to provide a full 3D rendering of the work areas, ports can increase safety and increase their efficiency as they move containers between ships, storage, and truckbeds.
Collision is a key safety priority for port management, but even with safety protocols in place, port traffic accidents are the most commonly reported incidents. LiDAR sensors enable real-time alerts to equipment operators to mitigate accidents. For instance, at busy intersections, operators may not easily see other vehicles or equipment around corners. LiDAR-based systems combine data from all moving objects to caution drivers about oncoming traffic.
The sheer size and weight of the containers and equipment make risk mitigation imperative. LiDAR sensors can reduce the risk of slippage, tilting, and containers banging into other objects, reducing the risk of damage and injury. LiDAR can also locate specific containers accurately, increasing efficiency and maximizing space utilization in storage facilities or truck beds. In addition, LiDAR’s precision accuracy enables remote monitoring of container stacking and storage. By eliminating manual measurements, ports are able to move and stack containers more efficiently and with improved accuracy.
LiDAR sensors positioned on cranes and physical infrastructure very accurately monitor container movement and alert operators when a crane or container collision is imminent. For instance, LiDAR sensors can scan the area surrounding a gantry crane to ensure a free movement path.
Ports are a critical part of the global economy, and the global port equipment market is expected to grow to $37 billion by 2025, with container handling equipment accounting for the largest share of the market. As ports expand their operations and invest in new equipment, safety will be paramount to operational continuity.
LiDAR offers ports the best opportunity to invest in technology that will provide immediate safety benefits and will reduce risk of accidents and injury significantly. As a result, ports will operate more efficiently without delays created by incidents. What’s more, LiDAR delivers a future-proof investment that will support port automation projects that will further enhance port safety and efficiency.