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The world’s first automated
straddle carrier terminal opens in Brisbane

The world’s first automated straddle carriers are all set for revenue-earning operation. After many years of development by Kalmar Industries and Patrick Stevedores, the two companies say that the system now in place on Berth 7 at its Brisbane Fisherman Islands facility will be ready within the next three months to handle its first container vessel on a commercial basis.

Initially, five Kalmar straddle carriers will be used, operating between the ship-to-shore cranes and the stack. Later, Patrick expects to increase the number of machines and is planning to extend operations to Berths 8 and 9, meaning that unmanned straddle carriers could soon be handling 200,000 to 300,000TEU per annum at this particular three berth facility.

When the first vessel comes alongside Berth 7, the straddle carriers will be unmanned, relying on radar, inertia navigation and GPS technology to enable them to roam freely around the terminal as they follow instructions from the terminal management system.

Commenting on this exciting latest stage in the development of the automated straddle carrier, Ilkka Annala, Vice President Kalmar straddle carriers, said:

“The automated straddle carrier has a capacity equal to that of a conventional straddle carrier, it is achieving a duty cycle equivalent to or exceeding that of a manned vehicle and it operates in the same environmental conditions as a manned vehicle. These were our initial goals and today we have achieved all of these.”

In this project, Kalmar’s knowledge and experience has been applied 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. Included in this has been work on refining the capabilities of sensors for container detection and safety systems modules .

Patrick has been concentrating on navigation positioning using radar, lasers and GPS, the tasking system and the traffic management system.

Safety has been one of the main concerns all along. The automated terminal is a total exclusion zone: human beings must be kept out of this automated world. Also, reefer and road interchange are strictly controlled. If someone needs to monitor a reefer container, straddle carriers cannot enter the reefer area and visa versa.

The truck grid is the only place where humans take over control of the straddle carrier. This is achieved using a joystick remote control. The road truck backs onto the grid, the driver leaves the truck and closes the gate behind him. Only then can the straddle enter through another gate to pick up the container.


The Kalmar straddle carriers are equipped with anti-collision lasers and anti-collision bumpers. Anything that comes within a specified distance in front of the machine will stop the machine. Similarly, if the straddle hits something, it will also stop immediately.

According to Mr Annala, automating straddle carriers was first considered in the early 1990s after Kalmar (or as it was at that time, Valmet) industrial straddle carriers handling steel coils in a steel mill in the Netherlands had been successfully automated. However, it was only in 1997 that full automation began to look a real possibility for container terminals.

“It was apparent that the ideas of Kalmar and Patrick were converging, targeting the development of an automated straddle carrier terminal. We had introduced our fifth generation machine, featuring CAN BUS technology. This made it possible to use micro controllers to perform automation related tasks such as electronic steering and braking. These elements were a prerequisite for automation.

“We learned that, independently, Patrick had already begun to explore the whole field of terminal automation, focusing in particular on navigation and traffic management. We quickly agreed to join forces in order to develop the world’s first fully-automated straddle carrier port.”

Earlier this year, Kalmar Industries became a shareholder in Patrick Technology and Systems (PTS), a new company being established by the Australian company Patrick Corporation. PTS will provide a platform for further development and marketing of automotive automation systems, building upon what has already been learnt by the two companies and what will be learned as the first straddles go into operation in a commercial environment.

Notes to editors:

Kalmar is a global provider of heavy duty materials handling equipment and services to ports, intermodal traffic, terminals and demanding industrial customers. Kalmar focuses on supplying handling solutions that enable customers to operate with a high level of efficiency and reliability. Every fourth container or trailer transfer at terminals around the world is handled by a Kalmar machine. Kalmar provides a large range of value added services such as maintenance contracts and fleet management. Kalmar Nelcon and Ottawa complete the portfolio of the master brand Kalmar. Manufacturing plants are situated in Sweden (as is the head office), in Finland, in the USA, in the Netherlands and in Estonia.