Solving India’s Gridlock through Automated Short-Haul Container Transfer

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Mike Wychocki, Founder, CEO, EagleRail Container Logistics

The gateway looks forward, 10 years from now, through disruptive Automated Fixed Guideway technology

Industries today are measured in millions and trillions. We have come a long way since the industrial revolution, but the truth is that revolution is an ever-recurring and most indispensible of all dynamic parameters of growth.

The same goes for the shipping industry, which today needs constant improvements. The industry accounts for around 60% of the world’s total businesses and has the growth rate of over 6% per annum. The industry has grown to have bigger ships, more container volume, and faster automation software and hardware for loading and unloading ships. Good news? Yet, with all these improvements, the inefficient method of short-haul transfer has never changed, and causes crippling gridlock and pollution, not just at ports but throughout entire port regions. The industry today needs a better solution to address the growing needs of container  evacuation.

Thousands of containers at ports

INDIA – A classic case study

India, as per the Indian Brand Equity Fund or IBEF data, has 12 major and 200 intermediate or minor ports that are used to help transport goods and services. The country stands at the 14th position as far as the fleet is concerned, in terms of deadweight tonnage. Catering to this volume of trade in India makes it a nice sample to be analyzed.

There is a saying that “Ports are where old trucks go to die”. The oldest trucks are doing the short-haul dray move, sometimes 40 and 50-years old. They have bad brakes, are loud, not compliant with standards for diesel emission. They are a  safety, pollution control and road congestion issue and on top of that one breakdown stalls kilometers of trucks behind that. The loads go foul, financial losses mount and they have a ripple effect across the work hierarchy. It would not be wrong if it is termed the order-of-the-day.

Future estimates state that India will have largest capacity port growth in next 30 years with a predicted four-fold increase and therefore the path-breaking tech companies are mooting to work with India.

Mike Wychocki, Founder, CEO, EagleRail Container Logistics – a first-hand witness to the traffic alongside older drayage trucks, shares that at Indian ports the congestion issue is almost perennial. There is little time to repair roads resulting in slow-down. Some ports like the JNPT, in Mumbai, have set up new rail lines, dedicated economic zones but little help. The long queues of truck, the wait-time of 3 to 4 hours in every direction still remain unresolved. An alternative, automated truck could be considered, but it wouldn’t help traffic or road congestion. More mega ships are causing offload bunching and globally there is a shortage of drayage trucks, chassis and drivers.

Talking on the solutions part, Wychocki believes he has a system to cut short-haul/local drayage truck traffic by 50%, which would mean efficiency gains, reduced road congestion and less CO2 pollution. In detailed studies of several ports, a lot of containers go to the same places in repetitive routes to repetitive nodes. His idea is automation outside the port gates to rail heads and intermodal, inland distribution terminals. The CEO talks of a warehouse-like shuttling system, pick-up and drop-off via an automated robotic system, moving 60,000 pound containers in the same way that Amazon moves 60 pound boxes. Take an inside automated warehouse system and move the same concept to the outside. The technological system he is talking of can pick up the containers from the STS crane or back-stack areas; goes outside the port and intermodal yard or rail yard.

Terrible gate congestion

The Way Forward

The container industry is the backbone of the global economy. This is a long-term play. The end-game is to transform industry in next 10-years. There is an absolute focus on port growth in India. Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) is underway. Sagarmala “Port Lead prosperity” is ongoing. With growing middle class, Indian ports need to keep up with increases in demand for goods. In addition to this, India is trying to get better at the trans-shipment business and compete with ports like Singapore.

The Indian Prime Minister is encouraging Port growth. EagleRail Container Logistics, at Vibrant Gujarat 2019 business forum, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB). EagleRail Container Logistics has developed the first automated, patented and environmentally-conscious system to increase port throughput and capacity. Its technology and infrastructure solution reduces reliance on dirty short-haul diesel trucks with a 100% electric, suspended overhead container movement system that quickly accepts containers from ships or back-stacks and shuttles them out of the facility at record speeds to local yards or intermodal transportation hubs, eliminating gridlock, diesel pollution and hundreds of millions in lost efficiencies.

Signed Indian Memorandum of Understanding

The company is now exploring project options in the GMB network and is identifying two locations; one for container automation and another for coal movement.  The latter can be done in containers as well. The specialized containers measuring – 20-foot-long, half-height, loaded with coal and can be shuttled like standard 40-foot containers. 

Wychocki says, “Large parts of the world use conveyor belts. But when you have coal on a conveyor line, you have dust, particulates, and coal particles jamming the gears. Imagine if you could put it in a 20 foot container and shuttle box-after-box of coal. We’re looking at options with his staff.”

“We’re gathering data on two terminals to do a pilot to test speeds and feeds for container movement in merchandize container boxes and coal boxes. We are currently studying the data on which ports make most sense to do a pilot. Moreover, ISO 9000 coal carriers have already been developed making it easy to adapt to this system. As long as the container boxes have the same 4-corner lifting points, our system can handle them. The systems are not complex to build, it depends on the length of the system needed and volume to be transported. The average set-up time ranges, anywhere, between 18 to 24 months,” he said.

The company expects to break the ground in 2020.

THE PLAN

As per the draft plan for the project in India, the Indian ports would be split between private and public sectors (by the government). JNPT tops the list. There are plans for its expansion for which the nearby lands and railway hubs are being considered.

Another port in the cards is that of Chennai. Here, the potentials are huge since, at present it faces bad congestion problems.

Also in the pipeline is potentially the Calcutta port which again has immense potentials which are being explored.

The thought on which the up gradation is being considered is how to double the annual TEU capacities of the port. For instance,  if  JNPT seeks to grow from 4 million to 8 million TEUs in the next ten years,  better gating and evacuation processes are critical.

After visiting and assessing conditions in  15 countries and after making presentations to officials in 40 ports, we believe Automated Fixed Guideway (AFG) with will be a household name in port communities and revolutionize the shipping industry,” Wychocki added.

INFOGRAPHIC

Headline: The Disruptive Good

●       Emissions control comes off reducing truck idling time

●       Reduces carbon particulates by 60%

●       Top of the rail can be used for wind or solar power augmentation.

●       Boosts capacity, makes port cleaner, decongests road, gives data.

●       Using basic IoT tracking devices, shippers can now see entire life of container, from ship to rail head.

Sea News Feature, August 6