Configuration of a Maritime Container Terminal
The above figure depicts the standard configuration of a large container
terminal. It occupies a substantial area, mainly because of storage
requirements, even if this storage is short term (3 to 5 days). The
main elements that compose a maritime container terminal are:
Areas nearby container terminals tend to have a high concentration
of activities linked to freight distribution such as distribution centers,
empty container storage depots, trucking companies and large retailers.
- Docking area. Represents a berth where a containership
can dock and have technical specifications such as length and draft.
A standard post-panamax containership requires about 325 meters
of docking space as well as a draft of about 45 feet (13 meters).
Some terminals have separate facilities for handling barges (such
as Antwerp and Rotterdam), although most barges are handled alongside
the deepsea quays.
- Container crane (Portainer). Represents the interface
between the containership and the dock. Cranes have technical specifications
in terms of number of movements per hour, maximum weight, and lateral
coverage. A modern container crane can have a 18-20 wide coverage,
implying that it can service a containership having a width of 18
to 20 containers. A gantry crane can perform about two movements
(loading or unloading) per minute. The larger the number of cranes
assigned to the transshipment process the faster it can take place.
However, significant portside capabilities must be present to accommodate
- Loading / unloading area. Directly adjacent to the piers
and under the gantry cranes, it is the zone of interaction between
the cranes and the storage areas where containers are either brought
in to be lifted on the containership or unloaded to be immediately
picked up and brought to storage areas. This is mainly done with
straddlers or holsters. In the case of straddlers, the containers
are left on the ground while with holsters the containers are loaded
from or unloaded to a chassis. The usage of straddlers is more
common as it enables to move a container directly from dockside
to the stack (or vice versa).
- Container storage. Represents a temporary buffer zone
where containers are left while the assigned containership is available
to be loaded or while picked up for inland distribution. The larger
the containerships handled by a port, the larger the required container
storage area. Container storage can be arranged by shipbound (export)
and landbound (import) stacks of containers. For shared terminal
facilities, stacks can even be sub-divided according to
shippers. Stacks are commonly
up to 3 containers in height which enables straddlers to operate on top of them. Commonly,
a terminal has also a storage area where reefers (refrigerated
containers) can be plugged. About 5% of a terminal's stacking
area is commonly devoted to the storage of reefers. Specific
storage areas are also attributed to empties, which can be stacked
up to 7 or 8 containers in height due to less stringent weight
limitations. Empty container stacks are therefore easily
recognizable from loaded container stacks because of different
stacking configurations; empty stacks are higher and denser. For terminals facing capacity pressures, the
tendency has been to have empty container depots outside
terminal facilities. For a higher stacking
density, up to 5 full containers, overhead gantry cranes are
used, but this is linked with additional repositioning and rehandling. Stacking areas tend to be linear
since straddlers or overhead gantry cranes are circulating over a row of containers.
- Gate. It is the terminal's entry and exit point able
to handle in many cases up to 25 trucks at once for a large
terminal facility. The gate is where the
truck driver presents proper documentation (bill of lading) for
pick up or delivery. Most of the inspection is done remotely with
cameras and intercom systems where an operator can remotely see
for instance the container identification number and verify
if it corresponds to the bill of lading. Modern management
systems no longer require paperwork since all the documentation
is kept in an electronic format interchangeable through secure
connections. The priority is to verify the identify of the truck
driver, the truck, the container and the chassis. For a delivery, the truck
is assigned to a specific slot at the truck loading or unloading
area where the chassis holding the container will be left to
be picked up by a holster or a straddler. For a pickup, the truck
will be assigned to a slot in a waiting area while the container
is been picked up from a storage area, put on a chassis (if the
truck does not bring its own chassis) and brought to the proper
slot. The truck will then head out of the terminal, be inspected
to insure that the right container has been picked up and head inland.
If well managed (such as using an appointment system), the container will already be available for pick
up (on a chassis in the truck loading / unloading area). However,
delays for pick up can sometimes be considerable (hours) when a
large containership has just delivered a significant batch of containers
and there is a "rush" to be the first to pick them up.
Therefore, substantial efforts have been made in recent years by
terminal operators to improve the throughput of terminal gates
through better design and with the application of information
- Chassis storage. Area where empty chassis are stored
while waiting to be allocated to a truck or a holster. While in
North American terminals chassis storage can take a notable
amount of space because chassis are owned by pools, in the rest
of the world trucking companies own the chassis and bring them
to the terminal. The outcome is less space allocated for chassis
- Administration. The management facility of the terminal,
often having a control tower to insure a level of visibility of
the whole terminal area. This is where many complex logistical functions
are performed such as the assignment of delivered containers to
a storage space location as well as the location and the loading
or unloading sequence of containers by straddlers and holsters.
Additionally, the complex task of designing the loading and unloading
sequence of a containership is performed.
- On-dock rail terminal. Many large container terminals
have an adjacent rail terminal to which they are directly connected
to. This enable the composition of large containerized unit trains
to reach long distance inland markets through inland ports. An
important advantage of on-dock rail facilities compared with
near-dock rail facilities is that the container does not require
to clear the gate of the marine terminal.
- Repair / maintenance. Area where the regular maintenance of the terminal's heavy equipment is performed.