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As if by magic

HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA) is highly automated and certified climate-neutral.* Specially developed workflows make container handling particularly efficient. Learn more about how the individual processes are interlinked.

In Altenwerder, a container handling terminal was designed on the drawing board, where many different processes could be tested in computer simulations. The result: a very compact facility with a clear structure and short distances that is highly automated and continually optimised. A complex, constantly evolving IT system programmed by HHLA was put in place to control the various elements, from container gantry cranes to storage.

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Once the ship has moored, the container gantry cranes sink their jibs. The crane’s main trolley is operated by a driver who sits in a windowed cockpit from which he can see everything going on and instinctively account for the ship’s inevitable movements. The ship’s containers are then unloaded and set onto a working portal higher up, where the twist locks (used to secure containers on board) are removed and the box identifiers are checked. A second trolley, known as a gantry trolley, then automatically accepts the container and lowers it onto an automated guided vehicle (AGV).

These fully automated vehicles move between the cranes and the container yards. Using a system of 17,000 transponders, whose signals help determine the location of the vehicles, a specially developed software searches for the quickest route through the terminal. When their batteries are running low, the AGVs independently go to special charging stations to top up.

Most of the other terminal vehicles and handling equipment are also electrified, and they are powered with green energy. These features allowed CTA to become the first certified climate-neutral container handling facility in the world. climate-neutral container handling facility in the world.

The container yard consists of 26 storage blocks, each of which is handled by two rail-mounted gantry cranes (RMGs). The two cranes are of different heights so that they can work in parallel and, if one is undergoing maintenance, can jump in for the other when needed. The colourful boxes are arranged in block storage according to instructions from the software. Very soon, CTA will be using artificial intelligence to optimise the slots and facilitate the fastest possible release. Bald soll using artificial intelligence to optimise the slots, and facilitate the fastest possible release.

Tractors with a special chassis transport the containers between block storage and the rail terminal. Kombi-Transeuropa Terminal Hamburg (KTH), Europe’s biggest container rail terminal for intermodal services, operates at the CTA site. A successful freight traffic centre (GVZ) that can also make use of the rail terminal lies directly alongside it. Block-trains on the terminal’s nine 720-metre tracks are handled by rail gantry cranes fitted with rotating trolleys. When trains pass through the train gate, cameras automatically scan the containers’ identifiers and other special features.

Employees at the CTA control station have access to a sophisticated IT system, referred to as the terminal logistics and management unit. With its help, handling and warehousing process can be combined with road and rail traffic throughout the terminal. The software was developed in-house by HHLA’s IT department and is constantly adapted to accommodate new requirements. The system controls the various cranes and tractors via mobile data communication, which results in shorter routes, fewer empty runs and timely handling of all contracts for the terminal with the optimal utilisation of resources.

But this ensemble can only function if experienced employees in the control station and all over the terminal keep the facility running. Sometimes, though, it looks as if the CTA is being controlled by magic.

* The calculation of the carbon footprint takes into account emissions from stationary and mobile combustion (natural gas, diesel), from imported electricity, emissions from commuter traffic and upstream chains of the energy sources used. The carbon footprint verified by TÜV NORD CERT GmbH according to DIN ISO 14064-3:2020 was offset by Gold Standard compensation projects in accordance with TN-CC 020 Standard.

Hamburg's state-of-the-art terminal

Learn more about HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder, the world’s first container handling facility to be certified climate-neutral.

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