Written by Huang Yunyun / Translated by Chen Zhiying
In the intelligent container tally center of Qinzhou Port Area along the Beibu Gulf, staffs facing 4 computer screens at the same time run the intelligent container tally systems attentively and adroitly. In only 20 seconds, they can achieve the efficient management of containers. However, in the past, the same operation required workers’ on-site presence. Such change is credited to Guangxi Beibu Gulf International Port Group’s pursuit of cutting-edge technologies.
In 2017 when Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected Guangxi’s Beibu Gulf Port, he proposed that the Port should be well constructed, managed, and operated by adopting first-class facilities, technologies, management, and services. Therefore, in recent years, the Beibu Gulf Port Group actively introduced advanced technologies to develop the Port, so as to fulfill its role of “node” and “gateway” in international trade.
It is imperative that smart ports are constructed
In 2020, the total volume of China’s import and export of goods reached about RMB 32.2 trillion yuan despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a year-on-year increase of 1.9%, equivalent to more than 30% of the GDP. In 2021, the total amount of China’s trade in goods was reached an impressive RMB 39.1 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 21.4%. As important gateways of international trade, it is self-evident what contribution the ports have made.
To adapt to the increasingly prospering domestic and foreign trade, major ports in China have marched towards the goal of “building smart ports” in recent years. With deep integration of transportation and the new generation of information technologies such as cloud computing, big data, and IoT as the core, smart ports can better meet the demands of multi-level and high-quality transport services. Following the trend of the times, Beibu Gulf Port Group accelerated the introduction of technologies in the Beibu Gulf Port to lay foundations for building smart ports.
During the 13th Five-Year Period, Guangxi Beibu Gulf Port Group has made the following achievements: The full-automatic container terminals of the berths numbered 7 to 10 of at the South Dalanping Operation Area of Qinzhou Port, which used AI, big data, 5G, and laser scanning, started construction one after another; The Group itself innovated the service models and established a service platform for customers named “BBW PORT”, achieving one-stop reception, handling of formalities, currency settlement, and information service; Construction of smart gates in relevant port areas was accelerated, and management, security, and customs data of the gates in each port area realized information sharing .
The smart port construction of Guangxi Beibu Gulf Port centers around the smart operation of ports, precise management of hazardous goods, connectivity and coordination of supply chains, regional coordination of logistics, timely guarantee of services, and business opening and innovation. All these aim to improve smart ports in operation efficiency, upstream and downstream coordination in supply chains, information connectivity, and port ecosystem, serving as important ways for Guangxi Beibu Gulf Port to improve quality and efficiency.
Scaling to the heights of port construction through technologies
2021 marked the first year of the 14th Five-Year Plan. This year witnessed new measures taken by Beibu Gulf Port Group to introduce first-class technologies, among which the key were the full-automatic container terminals of the berths numbered 7 to 10 at the Dalanping South Operation Area of Qinzhou Port, the construction of which is known as “the Mt. Everest” in port construction.
The full-automatic container terminal is the first terminal to adopt a U-shaped design around the world and also the first featuring sea-rail combined transportation, with an overall throughput capacity of 2,600,000 TEUs. To complete the project, Guangxi Beibu Gulf sped up the introduction of technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, big data, and cloud computing in cooperation with Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries and other companies.
Phase I of the project was to reconstruct berths numbered 7 and 8. Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries prepared for it 5 automatic double trolley quay cranes, 16 automatic rail-mounted gantry cranes, and 30 intelligent guided vehicles (IGV). Take IGV as an example, to provide guarantees for its navigation tests, 2,500 magnetic markers were set at the front of the No. 7 berth. According to the staff on-site: “Every magnetic marker stores information of a location. The antenna installed on the vehicle receives the information in real time and feeds back it to the backstage management system so that the car ‘does not deviate’”.
In 2021, Beibu Gulf Port Group reconstructed and upgraded the terminal. The online debugging between the three automatic equipment and the intelligent control system was also carried out as planned.
Guangxi Beibu Gulf Port introduced advanced information systems and equipment to improve its strengths. In September 2021, the customs-port coordination smart gate management system was upgraded, shortening the time for vehicles to pass the gate from 4 minutes to 30 seconds and providing strong support for Fangcheng Port to exceed the annual cargo throughput of 100,000,000 tons 58 days early; In December of the same year, automated systems were available and 2 rubber tire container gantry cranes applied with 5G technology were put into operation in Beihai Port; What’s worth mentioning is that on December 13, 2021, the largest digital storage yard for bulk cargo completed its first debugging, providing a solid foundation for the operation of the specilized center storage yard for bulk cargo and marching a step forward in building Beibu Gulf Port into a port with first-class facilities, technologies, management, and services.
What measures will the Beibu Gulf Port Group take to update technologies and improve port efficiency? According to Li Yanqiang, Chairman of the Group, during the 14th Five-Year Period, it will accelerate the construction of smart terminals, ships, and channels aligning with the standard of world first-class ports, sped up the building of 4 full-automatic container terminals of 100,000-200,000 tons, and upgrade a batch of terminals above 10,000 tons, striving to achieve the goal of building a convenient, unhindered, economic, efficient, green and safe smart port.
Port development originates from trade and takes off with the application of technologies. With the goal of developing smart ports, Beibu Gulf Port Group will brave the way ahead.
Technology promotes sea-rail combined transportation
The smart port has become an important driver for Guangxi Beibu Gulf to overtake others, and its multimodal demonstration project, namely the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor sea-rail combined transportation, serves as an accelerator to boost the sources of goods in Beibu Gulf Port. In 2021, sea-rail combined transport trains along the New Land-Sea Corridor exceeded 6,000, nearly 33 times higher than that in 2017, becoming the fastest-growing international trains in China in recent years.
The New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor sea-rail combined transportation has been awarded the multimodal demonstration project in China after the application of Beibu Gulf Port Group, Sinotrans Guangxi Co., Ltd., and Guangxi Coastal Railway Company. Technology plays a vital role in this process.
Technology enables a higher informatization level of the demonstration project. With efforts and coordination of Beibu Gulf Port Group and relevant parties, the New Land-Sea Corridor sea-rail combined transportation information platform realized data connectivity and sharing, and traceable logistics information.
Technology helps Qinzhou Railway Container Center Station to become the first intelligent railway station that realized remote-controlled automated loading and unloading. In 2021, 6 long-distant automatic gantry cranes with the most advanced technology were put into operation in Qinzhou Railway Container Center Station, the automatic lifting, landing, and sorting of the container thus have been featured. The gantry crane, arching across the container loading and unloading line, accurately recognized the container and lifted it to the designated place with its “claws” after the smart scanning and recognition system scanned and transmitted the information of goods, significantly enhancing the logistics service capacity of the Qinzhou Port.
Accelerating the application of advanced technology in Guangxi Beibu Gulf Port will make it more competitive in the new round of intellectualization and automatization race among ports, so as to achieve healthy and sustainable development. It will also be conducive to Guangxi to integrate into the Belt and Road Initiative, take part in the New Land-Sea Corridor, and upgrade its role of “gateway, pivot, and corridor”.