Test run at JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven: fully automatic shunting locomotives


Application approved – Federal government grants a Euro 2.35 million subsidy for the Shunting Terminal 4.0 project

Wilhelmshaven – The application submitted by the JadeWeserPort companies for a subsidy for the research project to test fully automatic shunting in the Freight Village marshalling yard of Germany’s only deep sea container port at JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven was approved on 27th May. The Shunting Terminal 4.0 project receives a subsidy of Euro 2.35 million from the Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure as part of the funding guideline “Innovative port technologies (IHATEC)”.

Container trains are normally moved into and within the terminal using a catenary-free shunting locomotive, which means that the locomotives have to be transformed – something which will also be necessary in JadeWeserPort when the electrification of the Oldenburg–Wilhelmshaven main line is complete. This transformation is associated with additional logistical activity and material costs: the operating regulations for instance stipulate that a braking test has to be carried out following a visual examination of the wagons. This also requires additional time and human resources. Transformations therefore limit the overall capacity of the tracks. The Shunting Terminal 4.0 project is being carried out to optimally configure the time-critical shunting process, and to co-ordinate it better with the handling of containers as well as train timetabling: this is to be achieved by testing fully automatic shunting with a locomotive and to optimally configure the rail operations to harmonise with the needs of container handling as well as environmental aspects (noise emissions and pollution).

To minimise the use of diesel, a conventional shunting locomotive will be specially adapted to the track layout in the Freight Village, alongside adaptation of the management software. Train movements within the Freight Village are usually carried out almost completely manually via the electronic signal box, which also ensures that all the safety measures are implemented. This is time consuming and therefore results in the suboptimal utilisation of the track and terminal resources.


The following aspects are involved in the main steps to test the fully automatic shunting operation:

Integration of the rail operations – Scheduling of the train and shunting journeys based on the advance registrations from the railway operating companies, and the requirements of the users of the CODIS HASY planning software already used for the rail operations.
Integration of the IT systems within a shared platform – Integration of the data for the automatic, semi-automatic and manual planning of shunting movements within the Freight Village marshalling yard, and in the EUROGATE Container Terminal, using appropriate scheduling software in the existing IT systems. Automatic forwarding in future of the data acquired as part of the project to the CODIS system operated by the project partner dbh.

Tracking the shunting locomotives – Implementing a tracking solution for the rail activities customised for the infrastructure by incorporating map data, to achieve the reliable and precise determination of the position of the locomotive and the container trains. Automatic planning and implementation of the journeys with the use of sensors monitoring the area in front of the locomotive.

Optimising the process flows – Integrating the port-side systems with the scheduling systems of the rail operations, in combination with the position-based tracking, will enable integrated optimisation of the process flows (energy-efficient use of the automatic shunting locomotive by advance registration of the transport orders, to avoid unnecessary shunting journeys).
Integrating the rail operations within the port logistics operations improves the registration of the incoming and outgoing trains in accordance with the timetable, and synchronisation with the container handling processes.
The reasons JadeWeserPort was chosen as the ideal investigation and analysis location for this research project included the almost complete rail system, minor topographic complexity, homogenous speed zones, and uniform train types (only containers), which only differ in their length.


Brief portraits of the co-operation partners in the Shunting Terminal 4.0 research project:

Westfälische Lokomotiv-Fabrik Reuschling GmbH & Co. KG (WLH), Hattingen/Germany, was established in 1914, and boasts many years of experience with rolling stock. The company has developed into a provider of integrated solutions for rolling stock operators. Its function within the research project is the development, production and marketing of the modular shunting locomotive. WLH is a regular initiator and participant in many national and international research projects.

dbh Logistics IT AG (dbh), Bremen/Germany, is one of the leading logistics IT companies in Germany, and develops and operates sector solutions for shipping and ports, industry and commerce, and haulage and logistics. The company operates the Port-Community-Systems (PCS) for JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven, which connects the terminal operator with haulage companies, shipping companies, railway companies, customs, harbour police, as well as major shipping agents and recipients.

With the participation of the Georg Simon Ohm University of Applied Science in Nuremberg (THN), the project gains a very strong research-focused university for applied science in Germany. The key topics focused on by the university research strategy include “Transport, logistics and mobility”, “Automation and production engineering”, and “Innovative services”. The THN’s research activities prioritise high transfer rates of the results into applications and services, and are undertaken in units including the Institute for Vehicle Engineering Nuremberg (IFZN) and the Laboratory for Mobile Robotics. Prior experience in the automation of shunting activities has been gained in various areas including co-operation with Deutsche Bahn AG.

With over 9,000 employees at 20 locations, and in 40 institutes, the Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR) is the national aerospace research centre, and Germany’s aerospace agency – which also focuses on energy and transport, as well as safety and digitisation. The DLR Institute for Transport System Technology (DLR-TS) works on technologies, methods and concepts for the operational, technical and economic optimisation of railway systems. Goals include enhancing operational efficiency and capacities by automation and innovative information technologies, as well as maintaining very high safety standards.

As the port operator, JadeWeserPort Realisierungs GmbH & Co. KG (JWPR) is a port infrastructure company. Duties include the collection of port utilisation fees, the management of its own real estate, issuing tenders and awarding concessions for maritime services, as well as maintaining and monitoring all of the terminal-related infrastructure, including the nautical measurement equipment. JWPR is also responsible for preparing a shipping waste management plan, and the associated collection and re-imbursement of a disposal flat rate. Other duties include defining and implementing user regulations in the form of rules governing the use of the port, the general conditions of use, as well as an emergency plan. As part of the administration duties, it also manages the operation of the railway infrastructure of Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven JadeWeserPort-Marketing GmbH & Co. KG.

Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven JadeWeserPort-Marketing GmbH & Co. KG (JWPM) is a one hundred per cent subsidiary of the state of Niedersachsen, and is responsible for the construction, maintenance and administration of the basic infrastructure of the JadeWeserPort deep sea container terminal in Wilhelmshaven. It also has to satisfy the responsibilities and obligations demanded of a railway infrastructure company. The handling of rail containers on land takes place in the combined transport hub operated by EUROGATE at the JadeWeserPort terminal site, which is connected up to the public railway network via a 16-track marshalling yard operated by JWPM.
The Shunting Terminal 4.0 research project runs from 01.06.2020 to 31.05.2023, and has an investment volume of approx. Euro 3.5 million. Implementation of the Shunting Terminal 4.0 project is monitored by TÜV Rheinland Consulting GmbH.


About the subsidy programme for innovative port technologies (IHATEC)

The Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure subsidises the development of innovative technologies which help ports to manage the freight volumes and to improve their logistics chains. The aims of the subsidy programme include improving the competitiveness of German sea ports and inland ports, optimising freight handling, port passenger services, and incoming and outgoing transport, and improving the digital infrastructure.

Photo: Type of locomotive Westfälische Lokomotiv-Fabrik Reuschling GmbH & Co. KG, Hattingen