Friday, March 14, 2014

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S.C. Port Authority conducts automation study for new container terminal

The South Carolina State Ports Authority is building a new $700 million container terminal in North Charleston at the south end of the former Navy base – the only new port container terminal currently under construction in the U.S., according to the SPA.

The state maritime agency recently asked a consulting firm to review whether the new terminal should incorporate more automation in line with a global trend that replaces some dockside work with remote controls.

Engineers from Parsons Brinckerhoff are studying the possible changes in the design of the 280-acre container facility, expected to open in 2018.

"The reality is we have to make use of very scarce resources, and that's land, and we have to use that in the most efficient way we can," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SPA. "There are new ways of doing that than when we built (the) Wando (Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant) and when we designed the Navy base terminal."

Automation is popular not only because it lowers operational costs, but also because of the New Panamax cargo ships that will require ports to be smarter about how they use their shore side land.

The idea of automation raises concern from the International Longshoremen's Association, which worries the move could cost jobs.

"I'm not going to embrace the type of technology that will eliminate jobs," said Ken Riley, president of ILA Local 1422.

Newsome said any changes to the design of the Navy base terminal would need to be approved by the ILA and other groups.

"At this point, we are studying the potential for automation of the Navy base terminal as a potential way to improve utilization of scarce land," he said. "All impacts will be evaluated prior to any decisions on this subject."

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