China Merchants seeks to bring smart ports to Belt and Road nations

China Merchants seeks to bring smart ports to Belt and Road nations

Operator harnesses 5G tech to control cranes and trucks, boosting efficiency

GUANGZHOU — The containers were stacked sky high atop a cargo ship docked at a port in Shenzhen, the city that has long served as an economic dynamo for China. Cranes whirred and whizzed, unloading the crates to trucks waiting on the ground but there were few workers to be seen among the bustle.

Not that long ago, unloading a ship of that size and scale would be an undertaking requiring a number of crew members, many of whom would have to risk dangerous situations to get the job done. But during a recent visit to Mawan port, there were only a handful of workers at the scene, mostly overseeing the tall task and securing the containers when necessary.

The port is an example of how operator China Merchants Group has been working to automate and mechanize more operations using ultrafast fifth-generation wireless technology. By developing innovative ways to run the port as efficiently as possible, the company aims to accelerate overseas expansion.

Cranes that unload ships at Mawan can now be operated remotely from a centralized command room, meaning operators no longer have to work at dangerous heights in sometimes sweltering heat. The port is also testing automated vehicles on the ground, which could reduce human error in sorting containers.