Optimizing barge utilization in hinterland container transportation

02/10/2021 | 1:03 PM

Naval Research Logistics (NRL) has awarded the Harold W. Kuhn Award 2020 to Bernard Zweers, Rob van der Mei, and Sandjai Bhulai for their paper “Optimizing barge utilization in hinterland container transportation”  

The article was selected from 120 papers published in NRL from 2017-2019. The award is presented annually to the best paper published 

in the journal in the previous three years.

Optimization of hinterland container transport

The authors focus on hinterland container transportation using barges since it is getting more and more important. They propose a re

al-life operational planning problem model from an inland terminal operating company. The number of containers shipped per barge is m

aximized, and the number of terminals visited per barge is minimized. This problem is solved with an integer linear program (ILP), yielding substantial cost reductions, about 20%, compared to the method used currently in practice. Furthermore, they developed methods that make calculations regarding practical operational problems regarding container transportation in just a few seconds. The solutions produced by these fast methods are shown to be close to the optimal solution.

NRL praises the publication for its relevance in the nomination letter: “The relevance of the problem is particularly significant in countries like the Netherlands, where barges must be used to transport containers in


land. If only trucks were used to transport containers, one would see a continuous line of trucks between the port of Rotterdam and the German border, for example. Barges also produce little polluting emissions and are therefore environmental friendly.”

Co-author Bernard Zweers graduated Cum Laude on 19 January 2021 for his research on the optimization of hinterland container transport, resulting in the dissertation “Optimization of hinterland container transportation and terminal operations” at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, under supervision of professors Sandjai Bhulai, Rob van der Mei, and Guido Schaefer.