Supply Chain Visibility Experienced Live in the Port of Hamburg

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Jul 2, 2019

Author: Santosh


Ocean Insights’ claim to fame is its ability to greatly improve supply chain visibility. That way, its customers know significantly more about the exact location of their ocean-borne containers in the respective supply chain – and that significantly enhances the efficiency of their everyday logistics.

HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder
HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder

On a recent tour to the Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) Container Terminal in the Port of Hamburg, the OI crew themselves gained some valuable insights into the operations of a key player in numerous supply chains, especially those involving ocean freight to and from the Far East.

Would the traffic we sat in getting to the port one day take a lesson in automation?

Josh Brazil
OI Crew en route to the HHLA Container Terminal

At 9 am a coach picked up all 27 OI staff in Rostock and just under three hours later, they arrived at the HHLA facility in Europe’s third-largest container port. En route they had their first insight into land-based supply chain ‘invisibility’ – a traffic jam on the autobahn. The HHLA tour began with a scale model of the Container Terminal to demonstrate the scale of the operations. The OI crew were duly impressed.

Tour Guide demonstrating the HHLA scale model

HHLA handled 150 mega-containerships of 20,000+ TEU in 2018, but what few knew is that the Container Terminal runs close to emission-free. Not only does it use sustainably sourced electricity, it also operates the biggest fleet of electric vehicles of any port in Europe with electric-powered automated container transports (AGVs), for example.

“It’s almost as if the entire terminal operates as a single cybernetic organism.”

Nils Grewe

In order to enhance the efficiency of its container-handling operations, HHLA makes extensive use of driverless AGVs, trains and cranes along with remotely operated cranes equipped with cameras and sensors. “The level of efficiency through automation was very impressive with all those driverless loading vehicles, trains and cranes bustling everywhere in perfect synchronization. Would the traffic we sat in getting to the port one day take a lesson in automation?” wondered OI’s COO Josh Brazil.

A glimpse of the HHLA Container Terminal

The level of integration between manual and automated operations impressed Josh’s colleague Nils Grewe: “It’s almost as if the entire terminal operates as a single cybernetic organism.”

“the terminal is responsible for the stowage plan – not the vessel operator.”

The fruit fans among the OI crew were delighted to hear that 1.3 million tonnes of bananas are imported each year via the Port of Hamburg, Germany’s most important hub for tropical fruit. Among the many other valuable insights gained during the tour Daniel Stolzenberg learned to his surprise that “the terminal is responsible for the stowage plan – not the vessel operator.”

But even experienced hands apparently never stop learning about HHLA’s terminal operations. After decades of working for HHLA, the tour guide was heard to say several times: “I recently learned …”

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