Port of Rotterdam suspends unmanned container-transport plan

The Port of Rotterdam has suspended its current tender process, launched in June last year, for the selection of unmanned transports, which would operate on a dedicated road connecting the container terminals with other operations in the Maasvlakte region of the port.

The project had been highlighted by the Port as a significant step forward in port efficiency and automation. However, it has now said that “at present, there are too many risks and uncertainties standing in the way of the development of a sufficiently competitive product”.

It said that the tender procedure had succeeded in producing a technically feasible proposal, from an autonomous vehicle supplier, but the port said that it also had to consider the operational and financial risks.

The tender programme had been seeking a supplier of hybrid transport vehicles that could run either autonomously or be manually operated, leaving it up to individual operators whether they chose to operate fully autonomously or with a driver.

The internal road, called the Container Exchange Route (CER), connects the five container terminals and is more than 10 miles long. It was developed to provide a faster, cheaper and more efficient means by which containers could be moved around the port. The CER was to be completed this spring, followed by testing the transfer system in 2021 and beginning commercial operations before the end of the year.

The port authority will now speak with parties about how the CER can be used for manned container transport.