Ports & Terminals

Korea may challenge China’s dominance in ship to shore cranes at ports

Chinese ship to shore crane builder ZPMC, which has sold cranes to most of the world’s ports, may soon have a new competitor: Korea.

The Korean Port of Busan is opening a new automated container terminal in the latter half of 2023. The ship-to-shore cranes will be totally automated and will not require crane operators.

In an additional development the cranes will be built in Korea and not in China.

E.H. Lee, Director of Marketing and International Affairs for the Port of Busan spoke to the Propeller Clubs of Northern California and Los Angeles/Long Beach on May 22nd.

Port of Busan

With a throughput of 22 million TEUs per year, the Port is the seventh largest in the world.

Lee expects the new automated DGT terminal to begin partial operations in the Fall of 2023 utilizing three berths. He said the terminal should be fully operational by 2026 and have a capacity of just under 4 million TEUs per year.

Lee explained that the new ship-to-shore cranes will be built in Korea and manufactured by Hyundai along with several partners. The cranes will be operated by remote control and not require an operator in the crane’s cab.

The cranes will unload containers onto automated vehicles that also do not require an operator. These vehicles will then transport the containers from quayside into stacks where the containers will be unloaded onto trucks.

The automated guided vehicles will be battery operated.

Lee noted that traditionally, the ship-to-shore cranes were built in China, but in this case: “At the DGT Terminal, we decided to go with the Korean-made equipment. We ordered, even before we selected the terminal operators, that the cranes be Korean-made. We decided to do this well before the Chinese issue came up (national security concerns). We decided to revive the ship-to-shore crane business and we will now continuously order these cranes from Korean manufacturers.”

Transshipments Through the Port of Busan

Lee said the Port of Busan handles 1,400 container services per week of which 1,100 services are transported by short distance transshipment services.

These voyages are classed as Intra-Regional services and include the following container totals:

  • Intra-Asia 492
  • Intra-Europe 241
  • Intra-ECNA & Carib 87
  • Intra-Middle East 73
  • Others 280

Long range services include:

  • Far East-N. America: approx. 90
  • Far East-Europe: approx. 30

Middle Range services include:

  • Europe-Africa: approx. 60
  • Far East-India, ME: approx. 45
  • Europe-North America: approx. 40
  • Asia-Oceania: approx. 35

Lee said the Port has “had 24/7 operations at the Port of Busan since we began operations. Nobody questions why we operate at 24/7 because everybody else is operating at 24/7. And the carriers need to maximize their assets and containers.”

Busan Efforts to Reduce Emissions

In terms of reducing emissions at the Port, Lee said: “I have to admit that we are following the examples of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. They are the leaders in reducing emissions and ports in Asia are following their example. This is a very important issue for our lives. So, we are making efforts from many fronts including cargo handling equipment and relying more on green energy. I am sure that the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are doing much more than this. For example, we have just installed some shore power outlets.”

Lee added: “The Port has taken the following steps to reduce emissions. These include, vessel speed reduction incentives, switching diesel power equipment to LNG, establishing a solar park at the port, establishing a pollution monitoring station, converting lights at the container terminal to LED lights and establishing a future power plant built for hydrogen fuel cells.”

Education and Youth Recruitment

Lee said that the Port has used its tour boats as a means to educate high school students about the importance of the Port: “Young people from high schools go on these tours and learn about the importance of the Port and how it generates revenues, jobs and economic impact. So, we invite many young students from educational institutions to experience the Port on these boat tours. We get them to experience the Port in their early days when they are young. In this way, they have a very positive view about the Port (and) what the Port does to their life, how the Port generates revenue for people’s livelihoods. We had one person who took the tour and became so impressed, that he went to work on one of the tour boats as a crew member. So, I like this one example to show how it worked. He told me the reason he decided to apply to go to work at BPA and to operate the vessel was that when he was in elementary school, he took the Port tour program. So ever since then, he had this dream to go work at the Port. And so, when I hear this, I believe that our program really works, and I feel very rewarded.”

Propeller Club Speakers

At the Propeller Club event, Lee was welcomed by four speakers:

James Patti, President, International Propeller Club who urged closer ties between Korea and the United States.

Danny Wan, Executive Director, Port of Oakland expressed a desire for closer cooperation with the Port of Busan, including on green shipping issues. The Port of Oakland is researching green energy fuels for shipping, including hydrogen to reduce emissions.

Eugene Seroka, Executive Director, Port of Los Angeles, praised the Port of Busan’s initiatives on digitization and on green shipping.

S.W. Lee, President, Customs Brokers, and Freight Forwarders Association of Northern California recalled his family’s Korean background. He noted that the United States and South Korea have been close allies since the Korean War. The Port of Busan has grown to become one of the most advanced ports in the world and the Korean economy hosts leading corporations such as Samsung, Kia, and LG which have become household names.

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis


Contact Author

© Copyright 1999–2023 American Journal of Transportation. All Rights Reserved