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Latvian Container Terminal Tracks Cranes Via RFID

The system, provided by Autepra, enables the Baltic Container Terminal to identify the locations of containers being loaded or unloaded at the Freeport of Riga, based on the tagged cranes carrying them.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 12, 2013

The Baltic Container Terminal (BCT), a facility at Latvia's port authority, Freeport of Riga, has deployed an automated solution for managing the movements of containers onto and off of vessels that includes radio frequency identification. The system employs multiple identification technologies to identify containers and terminal tractors, and thereby better manage vessel loading and unloading processes. Based, in part, on cameras and optical character recognition (OCR) software, the solution utilizes passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID technology to identify a particular terminal tractor and determine if that vehicle is in the proper position under the gantry crane for loading or unloading containers. The solution is provided by Autepra.

BCT has three gantry cranes to service up to three vessels simultaneously, and can accommodate a total of 12 tractors (four per crane) that transport containers to and from the vessel loading and unloading area. As a vessel is unloaded, a BCT crane moves a 20- or 40-foot container onto a waiting terminal tractor. Prior to installing the automated system earlier this year, BCT required a tallyman to read the ID number painted on each container and record that data on his or her mobile computer, along with the tractor's ID. He or she then visually inspected the container and made note of any visible damage. Following that procedure, the tallyman radioed the tractor operator to begin container transportation.

A reader and four antennas are installed on each side of BCT's loading cranes.
The tractor delivered the container to a nearby storage area to await shipment by truck or train to destinations within Latvia, as well as to Russia or other countries within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The system is designed to move as many as 40 containers onto or off of a vessel per hour. The process worked in reverse for export containers. Tractors delivered a container to the assigned crane, and then waited under that crane for a tallyman to inspect it, thus ensuring that the appropriate container was loaded according to the bill of lading's requirements. That worker then visually inspected the container again and, in the event that any problems were discovered, recorded them using a handheld computer (Honeywell's LXE MX3 Plus model).

The company required three tallymen working 24 hours daily to complete these tasks, and thus sought an automated solution that would reduce the expense of those employees' salaries. The system also had another shortcoming, says Tomas Girdzevicius, Autepra's director—visual inspection by an individual standing within the loading area could not detect any problems on top of the container. Moreover, he reports, the movement of heavy machinery created a risk of worker injury.

The automated system, provided by Autepra, includes cameras and OCR software to ensure that the correct container is being loaded or unloaded. Those cameras also automatically take pictures of each side of every container, thereby creating a record of any damage found.

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