Vacca, I., Salani, M., and Bierlaire, M. (2010)

Optimization of operations in container terminals: hierarchical vs integrated approaches

10th Swiss Transport Research Conference, Ascona, Switzerland

Over the last years, international sea freight container transportation has grown dramatically and container terminals play nowadays a key role within the global shipping network. Terminal's operations have received increasing interest in the scientific literature and operations research techniques are more and more used to improve efficiency and productivity. In this work we provide an overview of container terminal's operations and associated decision problems. We review state-of-the-art optimization approaches in terminal's management and we discuss what are in our opinion the current research trends. In particular, we focus on the following streams: the integrated optimization of interdependent decision problems, the analysis of issues related to traffic congestion in the yard and the tactical planning of operations. The discussion is based on the Tactical Berth Allocation Problem (TBAP), an integrated decision problem that deals with the simultaneous optimization of berth allocation and quay crane assignment. Yard housekeeping costs are also taken into account in the objective function. We use the TBAP as a case study to illustrate the benefits of an integrated optimization approach. A comparative analysis with the traditional hierarchical solution approach is provided. Computational results based on real-world data provided by the MCT (port of Gioia Tauro, Italy) show that the additional computational effort required by the integrated optimization approach allows for more efficient solutions.