Depending on the size of a container, different pins have to be set up for locking (yellow in the picture) when it is loaded onto rail wagons.

Robotics in rail freight could soon be a reality

Photo: HHLA. Thies Rätzke / HHLA

A project launched by Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) and Fraunhofer CML is trying to find a way to use mobile robotics to automate the process of container pin handling in rail processing. This procedure, which still needs to be done manually, will speed up thanks to a mobile robot using a gripper arm. HHLA and the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services CML are committed to making the port logistics systems suitable for mobile robotics within two and a half years.

Container pins secure container corners into locking holes on the tilt tray bed. This research is part of the Pin handling mR project, jointly launched by HHLA and Fraunhofer CML. “The project is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMDV) as part of the initiative for innovative port technologies (IHATEC),” said HHLA in a press release.

HHLA’s role in the project

Jens Hansen, Chief Operating Officer of HHLA, pointed out that this technology, once available, will speed up terminal operations, cut transport costs, and benefit workers’ safety. HHLA will be involved in the project through various subsidiaries, including Metrans and HHLA Sky. The former will support the project with the wagons and operational data integration, and the latter will provide its IoT Integrated Control Center.

Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services

In this project, Fraunhofer CML will be in charge of providing hardware and software components. Moreover, they will overview the processes of integration and system testing. The Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services CML develops innovative solutions for the maritime sector and supply chain. They are involved in initiating and implementing shipping, port management, and logistics technologies.

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Author: Marco Raimondi

Marco Raimondi is an editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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