The Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) is expected to launch a tender for the supply of autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) to operate at its next-generation port Tuas, which will open progressively from 2021.

Estimates for the number of AGVs required at Tuas range from the hundreds to over one thousand, to work alongside the thousand automated cranes that are expected to be provided to the new port.

The port could double Singapore’s cargo-handling capacity to 65 million 20-foot Equivalent Units (TEU), amounting to 1.3 billion square feet, by 2040. If automation enables the port to operate at optimal 75% it would justify the cost of its introduction, according to Victor Wai, financial research lead analyst at maritime consultancy company Drewry’s.

“So it’s a question of our scale and our market position” Wai told Channel News Asia earlier in February, “that we desire to maintain the strength of PSA within our neighbourhood.”

Wai also predicts that the Straits of Malacca alone will produce a demand of over 100 million TEUs.

The planned implementation of AGVs follows testing at existing Singaporean ports. 30 AGVs have been trialled at Pasir Panjang terminal since 2017. 22 of these are battery-operated, and the remaining eight are hybrids powered by diesel and batteries.

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The PSA has also suggested that it will multi-source AGV providers, meaning that multiple companies could be awarded contracts to provide the vehicles. France-based Gaussin Manugistique, Japan-based Toyota and Kalmar, a unit of Finland-based Cargotec, jointly provided the all-electric AGVs in 2016.

Andy Lane, of CTI Consultancy, said that Tuas being built from scratch to the west of the city’s main ports offers an advantage.

“PSA can design the new terminals for future needs and dispose the older ones that have become unfit for today’s challenges,” Lane said.