Feb 24th, 2021

Why we must invest in terminal automation today

Guest blog with Christopher Saavedra, Terminal design service manager at Kalmar.

If ports and terminals are to meet the growing list of requirements needed for greener operations, the deployment of increasingly eco-efficient solutions and implementation of different levels of automation are necessary. Christopher Saavedra, Terminal Design Service Manager at Kalmar, shares his market insights, and why he thinks sustainable designs and automation will unlock the maritime hubs of the future.

In previous years, automation’s increase in both prevalence and perceived value has been hard to miss. Before I joined Kalmar in early 2019, I held many different positions leading port automation projects. While the industry focuses on the big automation projects, in Rotterdam, Germany or Australia, there are many other terminals that have seen big gains from process and equipment automation. For example, terminals that use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to help automate delivery and drop off containers, have reported an increase of gate transactions, reduction in errors and truck turnaround times. Despite these clear improvements, the reality is that many of the comparable industries, such as warehousing, are at a much more advanced state of adoption of automation.

Although I have already seen a huge change in the prioritisation and industry advancement of automation, the maritime industry remains at risk of falling behind and failing to reap associated benefits, such as improved safety, better customer service and a reduction of errors.

Automation and COVID-19

Over the last decade, we have seen the integration of automation in ports and terminals grow slowly in comparison to other sectors. This is largely due to the shipping industry’s conservative nature, siloed operations, and the avoidance of up-front capital expenditures. Likewise, the amount of global greenfield projects has decreased, and automation deployment and investment is still in some cases viewed as complicated, risky and expensive.

From my position at Kalmar, I can see that while process and equipment automation is becoming more widely used, automation’s growth is being constrained by a disconnect between perception and reality.

Take process automation as an example. Those who have not invested in it frequently cite a number of reasons: “There’s shortage of in-house capability,” “Our data isn’t good enough,” or “The technology has difficulty handling exceptions.”

None of these challenges are insurmountable. In my experience, most of them require very little to fix. When COVID-secure working practises were introduced in early 2020 and remote operations became a necessity, it quickly became clear from the productivity statistics who had invested in process automation.

When the next supply chain shock comes – and there will be others – the agile decision-making and adaptability that automation enables will lead to far greater commercial resiliency. The next unforeseen circumstance is unlikely to be a global pandemic, but it doesn’t have to be to cause significant disruption. A failure to invest in preparedness for future disruptions will be measured in workplace accidents, inefficiencies, and lower credit ratings.

Total integration

At Kalmar, we understand that sustainability and cost-effectiveness are critical for ensuring uptake, evolving ports and terminals globally. To maximise the return on investment, we take a holistic approach to our design projects, which consist of three phases.

During the first phase we assess different design layout options and propose tailored solutions based upon customer requirements. In the second phase, we distinguish the business case for these solutions; taking into account the cost, safety, operational and environmental benefits. Moreover, in the final phase, which is a proof of concept via simulation, we create a 3D concept model and compare our design against the customer’s KPIs.

We consider a wide range of eco-efficient and automated solutions in our designs. Besides the handling equipment offering, other energy efficient technologies, such as Midstream Lighting’s LED lighting solutions, often play a key role. For example, the right lighting is critical to the smooth and safe running of a port. However, most ports are still using high-pressure sodium, metal halide, or other antiquated technologies that underperform their specifications within months of installation.

Midstream’s LED lighting not only has a typical payback period of less than two years, but it also increases energy efficiency, enables a safer working environment, and has a multiplier effect on the value of a port’s other infrastructure investments. The design of the lighting needs to be also considered in combination of the equipment type and automation mode selection and must be built into the business case.

The terminal of today

Looking to the future, I expect to see owners and operators increasingly investing in eco-efficient solutions and different levels of automation, using technologies such as LED lighting to illuminate the path to greener operations. Especially with end consumers set to increasingly favour a low CO2 footprint in the overseas shipping of their products.
The ideal ‘terminal of today’ is therefore one, which is eco-efficient, flexible, optimised in all areas and led by data driven decisions. Setting the standard for the maritime hubs of the future requires us to nail process automation now, and increase efficiencies throughout the entire supply chain.

Christopher Saavedra, Terminal Design Service Manager, Kalmar


December 18th, 2020

Why is shipping not talking about the terminal of today?

The technological evolution of the shipping industry is happening now. Global environmental targets are helping to drive up the value and prevalence of existing and emerging technologies, as well as unlocking operational efficiencies. Saving energy, increasing productivity and cutting costs, are being prioritised like never before.

One area where we see huge opportunity to harness automation is in ports and terminals, with the cost savings, increased productivity, safety benefits and sustainability gains of automation yet to be fully exploited by owners and operators. In fact, we are barely scratching the surface of what is possible.

In our recent webinar Terminal Automation: Past, present, and future innovation, in which we were joined by Timo Alho, VP, Terminal Design Services, Kalmar and Luis Canto, CTO, MMC Ports, it was agreed that it was not the lack of available technologies that was limiting uptake but industry reserve. Our panelists noted that significant operational automation is limited to only 10-15% of the 1,500+ container terminals around the world. This low uptake is a surprise and a missed opportunity. Yes, it requires investment, but there is a cost in failing to make the investments that are proven to deliver greater efficiencies and a significant reduction in costs in years to come.

This leads us to conclude that there needs to be a pivot in current conversation about the investment needs of the ports sector. The future-gazing concept of the ‘terminal of the future’ now seems overused and somewhat damaging to progress. With the decisions made by today’s port and terminal owners and operators key in building the maritime hubs of the future, we must instead be talking about the terminal of today. What investment decisions should owners and operators be taking now in order to unlock returns?

LED lighting is one example of the proven technologies that have a vast multiplier effect on the value of other investments in infrastructure and technological improvements that are within reach for all ports and terminals. These will be key to enabling the ‘terminal of the future’.

Investment in improvements such as new cranes or automation will only be enabled to fulfill their true potential – and their full ROI – if ports also invest in upgrading their lighting infrastructure. This is an investment that pays dividends in improved productivity, safety and security, as well as significantly reduced energy consumption and lower energy bills – a focus that will gain further prominence over the next decade.

The growth curve for the adoption of technologies, such as LED lighting is steady rather than spectacular, with many holding off from investing in terminal automation and new technologies; perhaps because of the misconception that these are tomorrow’s solutions, rather than todays. Those that fall into this pattern of thinking are at risk of losing out on the benefits. Investment comes with a price tag, but so does inaction.

Whilst we understand that when prioritising investment opportunities in your terminal, it is easy to be attracted by a future-gazing approach, inadequate lighting is a significant limiting factor on performance today and one that must be acknowledged if we are to increase terminal automation beyond 15% worldwide.

As the global economy prepares for an era of post-COVID economic recovery, ports and terminal owners and operators should begin by focusing on the fundamentals; one of those fundamentals being long-lasting and highly efficient LED lighting. From Los Angeles to Aarhus, and from Venice to Belawan, investing in high-grade LED lighting can illuminate the pathway for many other aspects of port improvement and establish a future that enables fully integrated automation. The time to act is now.

Mark Nailer, Maritime Manager EMEA, Midstream Lighting

Mark has an extensive maritime background, both in the UK and internationally, covering over 11 years. His role here at Midstream is, with our in-house lighting design and engineering teams, to help prospects and customers achieve and maintain the perfect lighting solutions for their operations.

His last position, before joining us, was at Hyster-Yale Group – a major worldwide container handler, lift truck, and general materials handling solutions manufacturer. Whilst he was there, he was appointed as their Industry Manager for Ports and Terminals. Before that, Mark worked at Kelvin Hughes, a maritime radar engineering company that provides solutions for private, commercial, and military markets. So, you can rest assured he knows what he’s talking about.

With a wide-ranging background in Network Partner Management, Mark is also responsible for helping all Midstream Partners across EMEA achieve their business goals.


October 8th, 2020

Port Efficiencies Webinar

We were pleased to join the APP for their first Virtual Workshop on the 8th of October 2020. With a theme of Port Efficiencies, our US Maritime Sales Manager, Rory McBride led attendees through the benefits derived from proper terminal lighting, notably, how ports are able to realize a significant return on investment as well as provide a more environmentally sustainable alternative to old lighting systems.


Sep 23rd, 2020

Introducing Mark Nailer – our new maritime man

In this latest ‘Meet the team’ we’d like to introduce you to Mark Nailer. The most recent member to join the Midstream crew, Mark will be responsible for all things maritime across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Could you tell us a little about your maritime background and experience in the industry?

My maritime experience goes back to when I first left university. I joined Kelvin Hughes, a maritime engineering company that manufactured radar equipment for private, commercial, and military vessels.

After a couple of years there I decided to go back to university and study for an MSc in Marketing.

Fast forward several years, and a few marketing and sales jobs in places like AXA PPP Healthcare, and I joined the Hyster Yale Group. At Hyster, I’ve spent the last five years working on reach stackers, empty container handlers, and forklift trucks used in port and terminals. During this time I became the Industry Manager for Ports and Terminals.

What made you want to join us?

Midstream is a company that’s already achieved so much, in just ten years. It’s a dynamic and innovative team that’s totally focused on customers and solving their needs. I want to be part of the next chapter in the Midstream story and help shape the future of the business. The energy in the office is amazing too. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

What will your new role at Midstream be? And what regions will you be looking after?

I’m going to be responsible for growing the business within ports and terminals in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. It is a large area, but thanks to the partner network we’re developing, I’m confident we’ll be able to win and service customers from all parts of the region.

You’re used to working closely with partners, dealers, distributors. How do you plan to use this experience to help Midstream grow?

I’ve been working with dealers for over seven years now and I’ve picked up many tips along the way! One of the most important being that you need to build relationships through respect, honesty, trust, and shared success.

Partners need to be treated as true partners and not merchants. That’s key to creating teams who can work together and put the needs of customers first above anything else.

And you need to treat customers the way you’d like to be treated if you were them.

You’ve always been focused on driving operational efficiencies to the ports and terminals you worked with. Now with a focus on LED lighting how will this help efficiencies?

Reliability is everything for ports and terminals. Our customers need to have solutions they can trust. Having an operation that’s capable of working 24/7 is critical to their success.

Efficiency isn’t just measured by the boxes moved though. It’s also about the number of lights used to achieve the required levels and the amount of energy spent to do it. In both cases LED lighting is light years ahead of metal halide and high-pressure sodium systems. LED lighting requires much less maintenance too – another big plus point in its favour.

You’ve worked all over the world. What’s been the most memorable project you have worked on?

That’s a great question and for me it’s an easy one to answer, because I came up with it and championed it from the beginning to end.
In 2018 Hyster made history by being the first OEM (original equipment manufacturer) to sail up and down the Rhine on a barge laden with over £1m of materials handling equipment to showcase to ports along the river.

Over four weeks we sailed the barge from the Netherlands, through Germany, France, and down to Switzerland. And we stopped off in each country to do four massive live events, as well as a number of smaller, more personalised, stops along the way. If you can imagine the complexity of such a project and then double it, still you wouldn’t be there.

The whole event was a massive success. We smashed our return on investment targets. We won a number of very high-value new customers. We all came away with some wonderful memories. And I got to experience living on a barge for weeks. All in all – amazing.

How does Midstream differentiate itself from the competition?

Midstream is unique in the market. From design to delivery and installation, the whole process is handled in-house. This means our customers get the benefit of the team’s experience, innovation, and focus from start to finish. We’re not a ‘generalist’ company either. We work in our four sectors only – Maritime, Aviation, Sports, and Horticulture – so our research and development is centred on just these customers. And our solutions stand out head and shoulders above the competition because of that.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love the idea of having spare time! My wife and I are very lucky to have two boys, aged seven and four. So, any time not working is spent with the boys bike riding, playing rugby, and football. I do love to read though, and my guilty pleasure is 20-30 minutes with a good book before bed.

And finally, for a little fun, tell us something about yourself we don’t already know?

I’ll tell you a couple.

Firstly, I’ve got a greenhouse where I grow all sorts of weird and wonderful chillies, ranging from the exotic to the just downright dangerous.

Secondly, when the stars align and I do get a few hours for myself, I love to go out to my local lake and do a little fly fishing. I’m still only learning, so whether I bring home that evening’s supper is still a bit hit and miss. But I love the peace and quiet that being on the water’s edge gives. I’d recommend it to anyone.


April 9th, 2020

Meet Rory McBride, Our Maritime Sales Manager Americas

To be the best, you have to employ the very best. That’s something we’ve held as true from our very first day. So, in this edition of ‘Meet the team’, we’d like to introduce you to another of our industry experts. A man whose knowledge of the ports and maritime business could be said to be deeper than the oceans: Rory McBride, Maritime Sales Manager Americas.

Tell us a little bit about your background Rory.

Before starting my career, I graduated with degrees in International Affairs and Economics with a minor in Chinese. This led to me being awarded a post-graduate scholarship to intensively study Mandarin at East China Normal University in Shanghai, China.
Shortly after finishing my scholarship, I joined ZPMC – a major company in the crane and heavy equipment industry. At ZPMC I was responsible for sales and project management in Sub-Sahara Africa and the Middle East.

After five successful years with ZPMC, I was recruited by the Liebherr Group, one of the world’s largest construction machine manufacturers. After spending two years training in Austria and Germany, I moved to their Miami office, where I was responsible for West Coast US crane sales.

Following ten happy years in crane sales, I decided I wanted to step into a role where I could have a great impact. Fortunately, Midstream Lighting was in an amazing position to provide this opportunity. Now at Midstream, I’m bringing my extensive experience in the port and maritime industry to continue my journey to bring operational expertise and technical efficiencies to the maritime sector.

Where are you based and what does your role cover?

I live in Orlando, FL, a wonderful place to be if you love the sun. And my role covers all terminal lighting sales and business development in the maritime industry across the Americas. I’m also taking advantage of my long relationships with crane manufacturers and I’m responsible for the development and sales of our crane lighting products too.

Why is lighting in maritime environments so important?

The importance of lighting in maritime environments can’t be overstated. As one of the few items specifically regulated by Health and Safety institutions, lighting represents a key pillar for all ports to operate safely and efficiently. Plus, as the technology becomes more affordable and energy costs continue to rise, LED lighting is now having a positive impact on the bottom line by reducing operation energy costs. It’s a truly exciting time to be in this industry.

What do you think the top three benefits of LED lighting for ports and marinas are?

First and foremost, safety is always the No.1 priority in ports. Visibility, light colour, and uniformity provide a safer working environment and reduce stoppages caused by accidents. Secondly, people are starting to fully comprehend the magnitude of energy savings that can be made by upgrading to LED technology compared to traditional incandescent lighting. One of our most recent projects has cut their energy costs by over $600,000 a year! This completely transforms OPEX budgets, turning a cost into earnings that can be used for much-needed CAPEX projects. Lastly, ports can have a negative impact on the local communities. Using LED lighting to reduce glare and light pollution can help minimise that impact and reinforce positive cooperation between a port and their community.

Same questions but for crane lighting?

LED crane lighting carry all the important benefits that terminal lighting provides. But with one important addition. The area directly under quayside cranes has the highest density of workers and the majority of accidents occur there. So, any step that can be taken to increase safety in this area has a tremendous impact on the port’s operations. Also, colour, lighting uniformity, and a dramatic reduction in glare have a profound effect in reducing eye strain and fatigue of the crane operators and ground staff. As the effect of exhaustion is similar to that of intoxication, the benefits of keeping workers fresh and awake are enormous.

What’s the most recent Midstream project you are working on? And what are the challenges you are overcoming and the solution you are providing?

Our most recent project, upgrading the terminal lighting with Fenix Marine Services at the Port of Los Angeles, has been an exciting challenge. Our customer wanted a complete turnkey solution that not only included the upgrade of their old system to LED, but also included a state-of-the-art control system. They also wanted us to obtain all necessary permits from the Port of Los Angeles engineering department, and manage their energy rebate application. During the project tender, our in-house Lighting Design team identified tremendous savings in an LED lighting system that provided a mix of our terminal lighting products, rather than a straight 1-for-1 replacement. This dramatically lowered the cost of the system, both in terms of installation of the system and lowering energy costs – that’ll continue for years to come!

How does Midstream differentiate itself in the world of lighting for maritime?

We are the only major LED manufacturer that specifically focuses on high-powered, industrial LEDs that are engineered for the maritime industry. Unlike other manufacturers that offer a ‘phonebook’ of products, ours are specifically designed only for the sectors we work in. That specialty promotes expertise and has been a critical component of our success over the years. After all, a ‘jack of all trades’ is a master of nothing.

How important is the environmental impact of lighting in the maritime world?

Very. Particularly in California, where we are beginning to see an increased focus on the environmental impact of ports. California has enacted the Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP), one of the first initiatives to eliminate emissions from all equipment at the port. I believe this is setting the new global standard of taking a broader, holistic look at the environmental impact of a port. Previously overlooked, lighting is now at the forefront as one of the most viable ways to immediately and dramatically reduce a port’s impact on the environment.

And for a bit of fun, tell us something about yourself that we don’t know?

I am a first-degree blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do, holding multiple state and national titles over the years. Now I am passing the tradition to my son, as my father passed it to me.

Rory McBride - Maritime Sales Manager Americas

Rory brings to Midstream a decade of experience earned in the maritime industry for companies all over the world. This has allowed him to get involved in key lighting projects for some of the largest ports worldwide. Having been exposed to countless types of operations, Rory’s background empowers him to meet all Midstream maritime clients exactly where they are and provide the deepest level of consultancy and precision problem-solving.

Speaking four languages, including Mandarin, Rory oversees the global development of all our maritime-related products. He also coordinates with local resources and partners to identify new opportunities, secure projects, and make sure they’re delivered on time, to brief and within budget.

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