Energy efficiency, higher productivity and improved safety are the main benefits of a new Vale program. In 2010, the logistics department will invest approximately R$60 million to develop and implement innovative technologies in its heavy haul railroads – the Vitória-Minas (EFVM) and Carajas (EFC) railroads – and ports. These investments include new equipment to operate locomotives using remote control and ‘dynamic helpers,’ extra engines designed to couple with moving trains to help them up steep hills – never before used in Brazil.“We look for the best possible technology on the market to modernise our railroads and ports and, unusually for the industry, we adapt it to the specific characteristics of our heavy haul railroads,” explains Humberto Freitas, Vale’s Director of Logistics Operations.In order to operate locos by remote control, Vale is testing two sets of equipment on the Vitória-Minas Railroad (EFVM). The equipment allows drivers to leave the cab and carry out switching manoeuvres remotely, from a vantage point with a full view of the operation. The trials are taking place at the Engenheiro Bandeira and Ouro Branco rail yards in Minas Gerais, both on the EFVM. “Train drivers can manoeuvre without needing to talk on the radio with switchmen. The switching process is quicker,” explains Gustavo Mucci, General Manager for Rail Innovation and Development at Vale. By the end of the year, the company will have tested another two such systems on the same railroad. Total investment in the scheme is R$4.6 million.Vale’s has also invested R$9 million to develop an artificial intelligence system at Ponta da Madeira seaport in Sâo Luis, Maranhâo. The system enables all of the terminal’s stackers and reclaimers – used to move ore from the stockyard onto conveyor belts, which then take it to the ship – to be operated remotely. The system uses a software program allowing the machinery to be operated from the port’s control centre. Vale is the first company in Brazil to have equipped all the stackers and reclaimers at a port terminal with a remote control system.At the control centre, operators each have their own command terminal. As a result, when they need to operate a different machine, they only have to activate a command rather than switch to a different terminal. The terminals’ operational system and layout is the same as that adopted at major European ports such as Rotterdam. “Using cameras and sensors installed in the machines, operators can control the machines at a distance, from where they can see the stockyard as a whole,” says Freitas.