In Depth: APM Terminals Maasvlakte II

APM Terminals is in the process of building a fully automated container terminal on Maasvlakte 2. The novelty will be operational after completion of phase 1 in November 2014, with an annual capacity of 2.7 million TEU. New technologies and process innovations are key to the project, combining increased productivity with gains in sustainability and safety. Frank Tazelaar, managing director of APM Terminals Maasvlakte II, explains how a thorough rethinking of terminal operations is a necessary step to anticipate future developments.

Containerisation International predicts global container volume to rise from around 600 million TEU at current to 900 million TEU by 2020. The market is moving fast, and the Port of Rotterdam is in a strategic position to capitalise on the increase in global trade. In 2006, APM Terminals had received a concession by the Port of Rotterdam Authority to construct a new terminal on Maasvlakte 2. One of the conditions was to build a terminal that increases productivity per hectare for efficient land use. Shipping lines consistently demand higher productivity as well. In line with these expectations, APM Terminals approached TBA BV in 2008 to help design a terminal that is ready for the “New Era of Ports”, as VP and CFO of APM Terminals Christian Laursen has described it elsewhere.

Design your home advantage

The growth in volume of global trade and the push towards larger container ships are putting pressure on ports to optimise operational efficiency. According to Tazelaar, their new terminal can deliver productivity gains of 25% to 50% vis-à-vis conventional terminal designs. The managing director states: “The area for a quantum leap improvement is clearly how to better optimise container yard activities.” Exhaustive simulations have yielded a number of design and process innovations, complemented by technological advances. ”In order to gather input for the simulation models, the company’s terminal design engineers worked with customers and studied ports worldwide”, Tazelaar explains. The research benefitted from APM Terminals’ experience and good relations in the Port of Rotterdam, having an operational terminal on the Maasvlakte since 2000 and Maersk Line as sister company.

Welcome new players

In addition, the Port of Rotterdam Authority had Maasvlakte 2 designed with optimising flow and minimising environmental impact in mind, resulting in wide and 20-metre deep port basins that accommodate manoeuvrability for all vessels. Maersk’s new Triple E class for instance, a type of ship that will frequent Maasvlakte 2 come November 2014, has a capacity of 18,000 TEU. Service orientation continues at the 1,000 metres of deep-sea quay at the terminal. State- of-the-art cranes with significantly larger lifting height and outreach employ dual-cycling to decrease the time a ship is at its berth. Operating these cranes by remote is an important part of the commitment to automation, while broad quays are an integral part of the innovative layout.

Flawless team play

The most significant technological innovation builds on Automated Guide Vehicles (AGVs), which are employed in three other automated terminals as shuttles for containers. Although they have facilitated logistical improvements, the AGVs have always posed a bottleneck. Gottwald Port Technologies has recently launched a new generation of AGVs. The Lift AGV is able to independently unload two twenty- foot containers onto a storage rack, thereby decoupling the ‘handshake’ between shuttle and automated stocking crane. Ship-to-shore cranes will load containers onto a fleet of 36 Lift AGVs, controlled by TBA BV’s TEAMS fleet management software. The on-board navigation system directs the Lift AGV to one of the 128 storage racks, from where an Automated Rail- Mounted Gantry crane moves the container to its next location. This can be the container yard, or the container leaves the terminal. AMP Terminals Maasvlakte II thereby has a fully automated and safe horizontal transport system. Integrating the TEAMS software with APM Terminals equipment software results in a comprehensive IT environment that organises container logistics with unprecedented efficiency.

Building strong networks

APM Terminals has been expanding its operations globally into inland logistics. However at Maasvlakte 2 the focus is on the terminal itself. Business partners organise transport into the hinterland. The current modal split is approximately 15% by train, 45% by barge and 40% by truck. This October, the railroad tracks connecting Maasvlakte 2 directly to the Betuweroute are scheduled to be finished. Furthermore, the German railroad grid connecting to the Betuweroute is planned to be constructed in 2012, after a significant delay. Rail and barge are more sustainable transportation methods than by lorry. APM Terminals Maasvlakte II therefore offers 500 metres of quay for barge vessels. The terminal will also feature a high performance on-dock rail terminal with up to eight tracks for efficient rail logistics. Connectivity to a 350-million strong consumer base in Europe is, and will be, a key success factor to the Port of Rotterdam and its clients.

Fair play

Next to market developments, the government exerted external pressure to improve terminal operations. EU and national regulations on environmental protection required APM terminals to meet new standards for sustainability. Specifically, the DCMR Environmental Protection Agency formulated demands on minimising light and noise pollution, reducing CO2-emissions per TEU below the industry average, use of energy, traffic and transport, and more. Late 2011 APM Terminals received the first environmental permit ever issued for Maasvlakte 2. The entire concept of the terminal makes gains in terms of sustainability by making little to no unnecessary movements. The logistics optimisation reduces energy consumption and therefore CO2-emissions. Also, berths at Maasvlakte 2 are prepared for ‘cold ironing’, so that when global standards evolve, ships lying in berth can plug into a wharf side electricity grid, allowing them to turn off their diesel engines and further reduce pollution. An additional investment of € 12.5 million in wind turbines adds green energy to power the operations of the terminal.


The innovative design marks progress in several areas and provides opportunity. APM Terminals Maasvlakte II is looking for some 300 to 400 new employees to operate the cutting edge terminal. As stated earlier, the capacity after completion of phase 1 will be 2.7 million TEU. Occupying 86 hectares in space, APM Terminals has the option to expand operations to 167 hectares in total, thereby increasing capacity to 4.5 million TEU. The trend is growth. Another vital aspect of the Maasvlakte 2 project, and moreover a theme in the Dutch maritime cluster, is collaboration. From the beginning, the endeavour had its critics. However, cooperation between all key stakeholders has resulted in successful implementationoftheplanstoexpandthePort of Rotterdam. APM Terminals is constructing a state-of-the-art terminal that may very well be the benchmark for terminal productivity in the coming years.

Hannes Peters

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