To match the growth of container transportation (in the range of 10% in the last years), Port of Rotterdam expanded to a new area, Maasvlakte 2. This is a large area reclaimed from sea, for which construction works started in 2008, and is still ongoing. The first container terminal on Maasvlakte 2 opened just more than a year ago, in 2013.
In 2040 the combined Maasvlakte 1+2 could handle up to 30 million TEU (containers units), almost four times as much as the entire Port of Rotterdam is handling now, and at the current level of the largest container ports in the world, Shanghai and Singapore.
A lot of this demand is actually going to be moved internally, among different terminals and transhipment locations. Those are currently 8, and will be 18 in 2030. Until 2020 this internal transport demand can be met using (normal) 3 TEU trucks driving on the public road; but after 2020 this option will no longer suffice.
The question is: how to handle this internal transport demand (Inter Terminal Transport) in the most cost-effective way?
A costly strip of Maasvlakte land has been reserved during construction for a Closed Transport Route. Different types of vehicles can be used: terminal tractors with terminal chassis (basically, normal trucks), trucks with multiple trailers, automated guided vehicles, or new developments of automated guided vehicles that are also able to load and offload containers by themselves. Those vehicles differ in capacity (amount of containers), speed, ease in in loading/unloading, and investment and operational cost.
We helped solving this problem by defining a mathematical model for Inter Terminal Transport (ITT) (minimum cost flow model with time expanded network) This is a joint optimization of vehicle fleet and schedule of service. In a single step, we aim to take decisions that were often taken at different planning steps (strategic: which vehicles to buy; planning: which timetable/service plan to implement; and operations; which vehicle to assign for a service).
We also had to define reliable values for the parameters involved, and even more important, a reliable estimate of the container flows in 20 years from now. The optimization results have been verified and cross-checked through simulation models, of which a brief video can be seen here.
Given a vehicle configuration, it is then possible to compute a variety of performance indicators ranging from to waiting times to occupation rates of vehicles. Those can be directly translated into costs and benefits.
The present challenges address the possibility to consider a fleet of multiple types of vehicles. The future sees instead the actual implementation of ITT systems. We just need to wait some years!
The research over ITT configurations has been carried out within the framework of the TU Delft, Erasmus University and the Port of Rotterdam Authority joint project “Inter-terminal transport on Maasvlakte 1 and 2 in 2030 – Towards a multidisciplinary and innovative approach on future inter-terminal transport options.” The following students and researchers of Transport Engineering and Logistics at TUDelft have been directly involved: F. Nieuwkoop, H. Schröer, L. de Lange, E. Gerritse, T. Boontjes, R. Goertz, X. Luan; and R.R. Negenborn, M.B. Duinkerken, F. Corman. More details and the full reports of the project are available at http://inter-terminal.net