Featured Story March-April 2015
The Container Port Seaside Operations

by Mr. Athanasios Goltsos, Doctoral Candidate

Container Terminals (hereafter "CTs") play an increasingly important role with the growth of intermodal travel. From the introduction of the container in 1956 to the arrival of 10,000+ TEU ships today, now more than ever ports need to adapt to augmented needs (Baird, 2006). CTs' operations can be divided in two groups, viz. Seaside (quayside) and Landside, as shown in figure 1. Vis & Koster (2003) distinguished 5 operations that take place in a CT, as shown in table 1.

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Two issues are the most prominent with regard to CT seaside operations in relevant literature. The first issue is the assignment of quay space and service time to vessels arriving to the port. These vessels then need to be assigned quay cranes (hereafter "QCs") for the unloading and loading of the ship, whose assignment and scheduling form the second issue. Three interrelated problems arise in the seaside operations of a CT, viz.: the berth allocation problem (hereafter "BAP"), and the QC assignment and scheduling problems (hereafter "QCAP" and "QCSP" respectively).

In the landside, most processes are similar if not identical to those found in warehouses and yards. As a result, literature is abundant of relevant papers (Vis & Koster, 2003; Steenken et al., 2004; Stahlbock & Voss, 2008), and most problems are adequately addressed. Figure 2 outlines the core decisions taking place in a CT's sea and land sides (note that here, yard is still considered landside), in strategic and operational levels.
Berth Allocation and Quay Crane Scheduling involves inherent complex allocation and scheduling problems, and has attracted much attention by both researchers and practitioners (Vis & Koster, 2003; Steenken et al., 2004; Stahlbock & Voss, 2008; Bierwirth & Meisel, 2010). Small delays can translate into large losses, and the goal is to decrease the throughput time of berthing operations and increase service quality levels delivered by minimizing dead times and maximising resource utilisation. Effective management for high productivity of ports presents a variety of decision making problems at all three levels of strategic, tactical and operational planning (Imai et al., 1997).

Seaside operations can be approached in a sequential fashion, with the BAP providing input for the QCAP, and the QCSP using QCAP's output as input (figure 3, top to bottom). However, existing interrelations between the planning levels are almost completely ignored by sequential planning, often leading to overall plans of poor quality (Bierwirth & Meisel, 2010). One solution could be to address operations within a monolithic optimization problem. This however, when applied to practical environments yields models much too large to solve. Therefore, recent research is beginning to focus in the sub-problems interrelation (Song et al., 2012, Chen et al., 2011).
There are few research papers that model the BAP and QCSP simultaneously (Song et al., 2012). Most effort has so far been targeted on tackling each of the sub-problems independently (except for the QCAP which has often been integrated in the BAP and -less often- the QCSP), that can later be combined in a sequential manner. There is therefore a lack of integrated, holistic approaches.


Baird J.A., 2006. Optimising the container transhipment hub location in northern Europe. Journal of Transport Geography, 14(3), pp.195-214.

Bierwirth C., Meisel F. 2010. A survey of berth allocation and quay crane scheduling problems in container terminals. European Journal of Operational Research, 202(3), pp.615-627.

Chen, J.H., Lee, D.-H., Cao, J., X., 2011. A combinatorial benders' cuts algorithm for the quayside operation problem at container terminals. Transportation Research Part E, 48(1), pp.266-275.

Imai, A, Nagaiwa, K, Tat, CW. 1997. Efficient Planning of Berth Allocation for Container Terminals in Asia. Journal of Advanced Transportation, 31(1), pp.75-94.

Song, L., Cherrett, T., Guan, W., 2012. Study on berth planning problem in container seaport: Using an integrated programming approach. Computers &Industrial Engineering, 62(1), pp.119-128.

Steenken, Dirk, Vo?, Stefan, Stahlbock, Robert, 2004. A survey of berth allocation and quay crane scheduling problems in container terminals. OR Spectrum, 26(1), pp.3-49.

Stahlbock R., Vo? S., 2007. Operations research at container terminals: a literature update. OR Spectrum, 30(1), pp.1-52.

Vis F.A.I., Rene de Koster, 2003. Transshipment of containers at a container terminal: An overview. European Journal of Operational Research, 147(2003), pp.1-16.

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