Mexico port terminal operator steps up automation drive

By
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mexican port terminal administrator Contecon Manzanillo is working on further automating its processes in order to improve its operations and handle an increase in the port's activities. 

Contecon will invest US$2.5mn this year in a semi-automation plan that is expected to increase productivity at the terminal by 25%. 

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Since Contecon began operations, it bet heavily on technology and process automation, Jorge Kogakis (pictured), the company's director of operations, told BNamericas. 

According to Kogakis, automating processes in port terminals brings about tangible benefits to both users and operators, such as improving workers' safety and increasing productivity. "Automation also allows us, the terminal's operator, to ensure the reliability of the collected information and manage variations in cargo volume, avoiding operative mistakes that could result in a loss of efficiency and service quality."

The resources invested in the semi-automation plan will support the operator's current focus on information transparency, which includes a container tracking tool and an optical character recognition system. These are being implemented in the port's cranes, as well as in the entry and exit booths. 

The optical character recognition tool, which is made up of high-definition cameras that capture a container's ID number and the tract's assigned code, will allow Contecon to record movements and improve loading and unloading times. 

A second component, the Smart Port Solution, combines an integrated, high-precision global positioning system and a radio frequency identification system, which will be implemented in a modular fashion. 

This solution promotes an agile interaction between operators and the port's equipment, creating a virtual map of the terminal. Any movement in the port can be monitored in real time, which promotes assertive decision-making processes in order to make processes more efficient, said Kogakis.  

The benefits are not limited to the terminal's operator, as customers will also be able to keep track of their merchandise and validate processes through Contecon's webpage. 

SUPPLIERS AND TECHNOLOGY

Contecon Manzanillo, a subsidiary of Philippine group International Container Terminal Services, won a concession in 2009 to operate a terminal specialized in containers (Tec II) in the northern part of the Manzanillo port in the Mexican state of Colima.

According to Kogakis, investing in technology and process automation has been a key part of the company's operations. For instance, Contecon acquired the Navis N4 terminal operating system in 2011, two years before it received its first container ship. 

The executive underscored the importance of partnering with technology suppliers in keeping the terminal up to date with the latest solutions. 

In addition to high-definition cameras from a Swiss supplier that make loading and unloading activities more efficient, Contecon automated terminal container yard operations with Finnish technology. 

The terminal's new additions, such as the Smart Port platform, interact with the N4 terminal operating system. 

ANTICIPATING DEMAND

Last year Contecon Manzanillo saw a 27% increase in the amount of containers that pass through the terminal compared to 2015. In line with the port's development plan, the growth rate expected for this year is 15%. 

"Contecon expects to move approximately 770,000 TEUs this year, and from 2014 to date the port terminal has grown 70%," said Kogakis, who attributed part of the growth to the company's investments in process automation.