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After years of intensive research, development and testing, the world first fully automated straddle carrier (AutoStrad) system started large-scale operations in Patrick Corporation's Fisherman Islands' facility in Brisbane, Australia when Berths 7, 8, and 9 officially opened for business on 1 December.

The facility now operates with 14 automated Kalmar EDRIVE straddle carriers, the first such machines to be purpose-built for unmanned operations. The automated 65-tonne straddles are fitted with motion control and navigation systems which allow them to operate unmanned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in very nearly all weather conditions.

Between them, the 14 straddle carriers will handle an anticipated 350,000 TEU annually on the 25 hectare site. They will be responsible for moving containers from the 750 metre quay, stacking them in holding yards and loading them onto vehicles.

Automated straddle carrier trial operations were initiated in 2000 and, following their success, the machines undertook their first commercial moves at Berth 7 of Fisherman Island in 2002. After a successful trial period with five automated straddle carriers, Patrick decided to open a large-scale facility over three fully operating berths.

Kalmar Industries and Patrick have developed the AutoStrad system in partnership. Kalmar role in the development of the AutoStrad terminal was to apply its knowledge and experience to developing machine control systems that move, brake and steer the straddle carriers and ensure that the machines pick and place the containers in the correct positions. Patrick Technology & Systems (PTS) concentrated on navigation positioning, the tasking system and the AutoStrad “Traffic Management System (TMS).

Jorma Tirkkonen, President of Kalmar Intelligence and Automation, confirms that the automation concept is attracting interest from terminal operators on a global basis.

Kalmar and Patrick have a joint venture company – PTS – which is already using its expertise to help other terminal operators analyse how they can implement automation in their own terminals. Our initial focus was to get the technology to work in Brisbane. The success in Australia has initiated a genuine demand in other part of the world.