Maritime container terminal

A maritime container terminal is a place where containers arriving by ocean vessels are transferred to inland carriers, such as trucks, trains, or canal barges and vice verse. 

Generally, a terminal is a facility where cargo containers are transshipped between different transport vehicles, for onward transportation.

The transshipment may be between ships and land vehicles, for example trains or trucks, in which case the terminal is described as a maritime terminal. Alternatively the transshipment may be between land vehicles, typically between train and truck, in which case the terminal is described as an inland terminal.

Maritime container terminals tend to be part of a larger port, and the biggest terminals of this type can be found situated around major harbors. Inland terminals serving containers tend to be located in or near major cities, with good rail connections to maritime container terminals.

Functions

Every maritime terminal performs four basic functions: receiving, storage, staging, and loading for both import (entering the terminal by sea and usually leaving by land modes) and export (usually entering the terminal by land and leaving by sea modes) containers.

  • Receiving involves container arrival at the terminal, either as an import or export, recording its arrival, retrieving relevant logistics data and adding it to the current inventory.
  • Storage is the function of placing the container in a known and recorded location so it may be retrieved when it is needed.
  • Staging is the function of preparing a container to leave the terminal. In other words the containers that are to be exported are identified and organized so as to optimize the loading process. Import containers follow similar processes, although staging is not always performed. An exception is a group of containers leaving the terminal via rail.
  • Finally, the loading function involves placing the correct container on the ship, truck, or other mode of transportation. In this work the emphasis will be put on internal logistics chain of container terminal (i.e. vessel-truck-yard and opposite direction respectively).

Structure

In general logistics terms, container terminals can be described as open systems of material flow with two external interfaces. These interfaces aStructureIn general logistics terms, container terminals can be described as open systems of material flow with two external interfaces. These interfaces are the quayside with loading and unloading of ships, and the landside where containers are loaded and unloaded on/off trucks and trains. Containers are stored in stacks thus facilitating the decoupling of quayside and landside operation.re the quayside with loading and unloading of ships, and the land-side where containers are loaded and unloaded on/off trucks and trains. Containers are stored in stacks thus facilitating the decoupling of quayside and land-side operation.

Operation areas of a container terminal and flow of transports

Loading and discharging a ship

When a ship arrives at the port, the containers have to be taken off the ship. This is done by manned Quay Cranes (QCs), which take the containers from the ship's hold and the deck.

Next, the QCs put the containers on vehicles, like automated guided vehicles (AGVs). After receiving a container, the AGV moves to the stack. This stack consists of a number of lanes where containers can be stored for a certain period. These lanes are served by, for example, automatically controlled Automated Stacking Cranes (ASCs).

When an AGV arrives at a lane, the ASC takes the container off the AGV and stores it in the stack. After a certain period the containers are retrieved from the stack by the ASCs and transported by the AGVs to transportation modes such as barges, deep-sea ships, trucks or trains.

This process is also be executed in reverse order, to load containers on a ship.

For a clear idea of loading and unloading container ships at terminals,watch these videos

Top container ports

It’s pretty interesting to note that among top 20 container ports in 2009 in the table below, 14 are in Asia and China alone has 8 representatives.

World's Top 20 Container Ports 2009
Rank Port Country Volume
(mil TEUs)
1 Singapore Singapore 25.87
2 Shanghai China 25.00
3 Hong Kong China 21.04
4 Shenzhen China 18.25
5 Busan South Korea 11.98
6 Guangzhou China 11.19
7 Dubai United Arab Emirates 11.12
8 Ningbo-Zhoushan China 10.50
9 Qingdao China 10.26
10 Rotterdam Netherlands 9.74
11 Tianjin China 8.70
12 Kaohsiung Taiwan, China 8.58
13 Port Klang Malaysia 7.31
14 Antwerp Belgium 7.31
15 Hamburg Germany 7.01
16 Los Angeles, CA Usa 6.75
17 Tanjung Pelepas Malaysia 6.00
18 Long Beach, CA USA 5.07
19 Xiamen China 4.68
20 Laem Chabang Thailand 4.62

>>>> Read brief introduction about these ports

The above rankings reflex the development of Asian (especially Chinese) economy and the improvement of port industry in the region. Things were different some twenty years ago when more than half of the top 20 were in America or Europe. See how's different?

Among hundreds of container terminals throughout the world, Singapore is the busiest, as of 2009. In fact, Singapore has taken over the port crown from Hong Kong since 2005, and kept the position for years.

Yet, according to some sources, in the first 9 months of 2010, Shanghai surpassed Singapore in container throughput and may become the winner for the first time in 2010.

To see ranking of top 10 busiest ports from 1999 to 2009, download here


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