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Container terminals: The pinnacle of facility management

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region is known for its urban congestion, with modestly sized plots of land occupied by residential and commercial towers inching towards the sky. But imagine a vast expanse of land that is home to a single facility spread horizontally rather than vertically, just across the harbour from the buzzing city of Mumbai. Picture a few buildings amidst a wide area occupied by hundreds, if not thousands of container terminals being loaded and unloaded from gigantic merchant ships from all over the world.

This well-planned, well-maintained facility belongs to APM Terminals, which handles 75% of the container traffic at Mumbai’s Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and is one of three container terminals operating from there. Also known as Gateway Terminals India (GTI), it is part of APM Terminals’ global ports/terminal network and is a joint venture between APM Terminals and the Container Corporation of India. India’s busiest container terminal, it has a 30-year license to provide container handling services.

From housekeeping and security to transport and waste management, every facet of facility management has a role to play in just this one facility.

Mrigank Warrier, Assistant Editor, Clean India Journal had the opportunity of visiting this high-security zone and being given a tour of its core and support operations by Darshan Sagdeo, AGM-Administration, APM Terminals and his team of committed personnel. He returned amazed and impressed.

Vital statistics

A long drive out of Mumbai, with container freight stations on either side of the road, brought me to the gates of the facility, spread across 52 hectares. After the security check, another 2 km drive brought me to the ground-plus-two storey office building, each floor having an area of 1,488 sq m. Around 1,200 employees work at APM Terminals, where different types of cranes, lifts and stackers move an average of 3,500 containers per day for import or export between ships berthed by the quayside, a 2 lakh sq m yard, and hundreds of container trucks that enter and exit the facility every day.

Visitor management

Temperature check was conducted for every individual at the entrance twice, at two checkpoints, with a thermal scanner. There also was a screening process to gauge the possibility of any health issues. A paramedical worker noted my details at the entry point, after which I was promptly whisked off to an audio-visual safety induction session curated for visitors. Since the pandemic, visitor IDs have been done away with.

Attendance systems

Biometric attendance has similarly been junked. I saw employees scan their smart cards on smart consoles, where they can also check schedules and apply for leave. The company has familiarised its employees with digitisation.

Safety and hygiene

Prior to being driven around the facility, I was asked to don a safety jacket, hard hat, and toughened shoes. If there is one FM function that is valued above all others here, it is safety. With containers and cranes weighing thousands of tonnes being lifted from place to place, no risks are permitted. All operations are monitored by video analytics, where a real-time analysis detects unsafe acts immediately. A 30 km/hr speed limit is enforced across the facility, and no pedestrians are allowed in the container yard under any circumstances.

Sanitiser stations are omnipresent, and heat-resistant gloves issued to all workers. The safety drive extends to office workers too; the HEPA filter and HVAC ducts, which were cleaned every 30 days and every fortnight, are now cleaned once a fortnight and once a week respectively. Office desks and tables are widely spaced, and fiberglass partitions have been put up between adjacent workstations.


A war room monitors the entire property, which follows such stringent rules that visitors like me are not even permitted inside. The terminal is open to security solutions that can help receive prompt intruder alerts.

Ingress and egress of vehicles

Container trucks entering the facility are stopped at the main gate; after verification, a gate ticket is generated and handed to the drivers. On the back is a map of the container yard, which has been divided into ‘streets’; the map shows the ‘address’ to which the truck should go.

While exiting, the number on the container is digitally scanned by a camera; once the CISF approves it, the truck is allowed to leave the property. Containers also enter the facility via a branch of the railway line; all containers are moved between or under giant scanners to detect any signs of radioactivity. Some sophisticated scanners can even visualize the interior of a container.

Digitised operations

All client invoices are automatically generated and mailed to the client within six hours of a ship’s movement. No pen and paper is involved; only digital signatures are used. A customer service portal displays balance and outstanding payments and allows the client to track the real-time location of a container.

Similarly, the office too uses a digitised management system, where the day’s agenda for each department is displayed. The status of to-do lists and daily plans are visible, both to staff members and to the senior management. In the security department, for instance, I caught a glimpse of a list of incidents which had been investigated, and those pending investigation.

Transport vehicles

There are two shifts: the 12-hour shift (8am to 8pm, 8pm to 8am), and the general shift for office work employees from 8am to 4.30pm. Since the facility is situated far from residential areas, four buses are dedicated to ferry each set of employees to and from a central point. Bus cleaning is the vendor’s responsibility; buses are disinfected using sprays after each trip.

Canteen services

With a capacity of 150 people, the canteen now seats 90 at a time due to Covid precautions. Except between 11pm and 5am, meals are served by the vendor throughout the day, since the facility functions 24×7. Deep cleaning is done once a week.

Cleaning needs

By now, the scope and sheer diversity of this facility must be obvious. Cleaning and hygiene are of paramount importance here since any health issue can thwart smooth operations, which cannot be permitted in an essential services domain that is crucial to the economy.

The wharf area is cleaned once a week, crane cabins are sanitised after every shift and washrooms are cleaned every six hours. A yard sweeping machine cleans the vast yard, and a vehicle sanitising station uses water and disinfectant to clean the outside and inside of a vehicle respectively.

Pigeon droppings and grease are a challenge in the workshop area; a scrubbing machine is deployed for regular cleaning, while deep cleaning is done on demand by a contractor. The office building is cleaned using manual tools.

Serving as a cherry on the cake, the facility has a 100-kiloliter on-site sewage treatment plant; 30% of the recycled water is used for flushing and gardening.

Four intensive hours later, I came away convinced that a combination of technology, digitisation, strict commitment to guidelines and partnerships with expert service providers have ensured that APM Terminals Mumbai functions smoothly, safely, and prosperously.

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