Container - Terminal - Operation - and - Operations - Research - A-Classification - and - Literature - Review

Container - Terminal - Operation - and - Operations - Research - A-Classification...

(Parte 1 de 9)

DOI: 10.1007/s00291-003-0157-z OR Spectrum (2004) 26: 3–49

c© Springer-Verlag 2004

Container terminal operation and operations research – a classification and literature review

1 Hamburger Hafen- und Lagerhaus AG, IS – Information Systems/Equipment Control,

Bei St. Annen 1, 20457 Hamburg, Germany (e-mail: 2 Institute of Information Systems (Wirtschaftsinformatik), University of Hamburg,

Von-Melle-Park 5, 20146 Hamburg, Germany (e-mail:;

Abstract. In the last four decades the container as an essential part of a unitload-concept has achieved undoubted importance in international sea freight transportation. With ever increasing containerization the number of seaport container terminals and competition among them have become quite remarkable. Operations are nowadays unthinkable without effective and efficient use of information technology as well as appropriate optimization (operations research) methods. In this paper we describe and classify the main logistics processes and operations in container terminals and present a survey of methods for their optimization.

Keywords: Container terminal – Logistics – Planning – Optimization – Heuristics – Simulation

1 Introduction/historical overview

Containers came into the market for international conveyance of sea freight almost five decades ago. They may be regarded as well accepted and they continue to achieve even more acceptance due to the fact that containers are the foundation for a unit-load-concept. Containers are relatively uniform boxes whose contents do not have to be unpacked at each point of transfer. They have been designed for easy and fast handling of freight. Besides the advantages for the discharge and loading process, the standardization of metal boxes provides many advantages for the customers, as there are protections against weather and pilferage, and improved and simplified scheduling and controlling, resulting in a profitable physical flow of cargo. Regarding operations, we need to distinguish whether we refer just to a container (which in that sense is called a box) or we specify the type of container

Correspondence to:S .Voß

4 D. Steenken et al.

under consideration. The most common distinction refers to a so-called standard container as one which is twenty feet (20’) long, describing the length of a short container. Other containers are measured by means of these containers, i.e., in twenty feet equivalent units (TEU) (e.g., 40’ and 45’ containers represent 2 TEU). Additional properties of containers may be specified whenever appropriate (e.g., the weight or weight class of a container, the necessity of special handling for reefer containers or oversized containers).

First regular sea container service began about 1961 with an international container service between the US East Coast and points in the Caribbean, Central and South America. The breakthrough after a slow start was achieved with large investments in specially designed ships, adapted seaport terminals with suitable equipment, and availability (purchase or leasing) of containers. A large number of container transshipments then led to economic efficiency and a rapidly growing market share. In this context, transshipment describes the transfer or change from one conveyance to another with a temporarily limited storage on the container yard.

Today over 60% of the world’s deep-sea general cargo is transported in containers, whereas some routes, especially between economically strong and stable countries, are containerized up to 100% [140,78]. An international containerization market analysis shows that in 1995 9.2 million TEU were in circulation. The container fleet had almost doubled in ten years from a size of 4.9 million TEU in 1985. Figure 1 shows the container turnover for the ten largest seaport terminals in the world from 1993 to 2002 [16,17,3,4,148]. Due to the positive forecast for con-

Hong KongSingapore Bus


Kaohs iung Shenz hen* Ro tte r d a

Los AngelesHa m burg Ant w erp

Million TEU

* Shenzen: includes Yantian, Shekou & Chiwan

Fig. 1. Container turnover of the ten largest seaport terminals in the world from 1993 to 2002 (ranking 2002)

Container terminal operation and operations research 5

Index (1990=100)

Seaborne Trade [t]World Trade [USD] Container Turnover [TEU]World GDP [USD]

Fig. 2. Containerization trend: high growth of container turnover tainer freight transportation, a similar development can be expected in the future. Figure 2 shows the containerization trend with high increasing rates compared with the rates of world trade, seaborne trade and the gross domestic product (GDP) of the world [198].1

The increasing number of container shipments causes higher demands on the seaportcontainerterminals,containerlogistics,andmanagement,aswellasontechnical equipment. An increased competition between seaports, especially between geographically close ones, is a result of this development. The seaports mainly compete for ocean carrier patronage and short sea operators (feeders) as well as for the land-based truck and railroad services. The competitiveness of a container seaport is marked by different success factors, particularly the time in port for ships (transshipment time) combined with low rates for loading and discharging [140, 78]. Therefore, a crucial competitive advantage is the rapid turnover of the containers, which corresponds to a reduction of the time in port of the container ships, and of the costs of the transshipment process itself. That is, as a rule of thumb one may refer to the minimization of the time a ship is at the berth as an overall objective with respect to terminal operations.

The objective of this paper is to provide an overview and a classification of container terminal operations. Moreover, based on this classification we attempt to provide a comprehensive literature review concerning operations research models and applications in this important logistics field. Usually, container terminals are characterized by means of their specific equipment and stacking facilities. Therefore, in Section 2.1 we describe possible means of handling equipment used in today’s container terminals. Based on these one may classify various types of con-

1 FordetailedinformationaboutworldwidemaritimetransporttrendsseeactualUNCTAD

Review of Maritime Transport (via, e.g. [189–192]. Success factors for growth in container shipping can be found in [198] or [118]. An introductory overview of intermodal freight transportation and containerization is given by [127,140].

6 D. Steenken et al.

tainer terminals (see Section 2.2). Furthermore, we provide a general overview of the functionality of a container seaport terminal with a focus on physical container movements. In Section 3 we discuss terminal logistics and optimization methods. Here we aim at providing a considerable list of relevant references (in many cases just providing the references without going too much into detail) describing different approaches including exact methods, heuristic methods as well as simulation based approaches.2 Finally some conclusions are given in Section 4.

2 Terminal structure and handling equipment

In general terms, container terminals can be described as open systems of material flow with two external interfaces. These interfaces are the quayside with loading and unloading of ships, and the landside where containers are loaded and unloaded on/off trucks and trains. Containers are stored in stacks thus facilitating the decoupling of quayside and landside operation.

After arrival at the port, a container vessel is assigned to a berth equipped with cranes to load and unload containers. Unloaded import containers are transported to yard positions near to the place where they will be transshipped next. Containers arriving by road or railway at the terminal are handled within the truck and train operation areas. They are picked up by the internal equipment and distributed to the respective stocks in the yard. Additional moves are performed if sheds and/or empty depots exist within a terminal; these moves encompass the transports between empty stock, packing center, and import and export container stocks (Fig. 3).

Truck and Train Operation Area

Yard Moves

Ship Operation Area

Yard Import/Export Stock

Empty Stock

Sheds Quayside Operation

Hinterland Operation

Fig. 3. Operation areas of a seaport container terminal and flow of transports

2 All sections are moderately interleaved with references giving pointers to relevant literature. Although we try to achieve a more comprehensive list of references than other recent survey papers in this field (see, e.g., [196]) we admit that even our list is by no means complete.

Container terminal operation and operations research 7

It should be noted that the quayside operation or container transshipment as well as the container movement to and from the wharf is sometimes also referred to as waterside transshipment process. Correspondingly, one may find the terms hinterland transshipment processes and landside transshipment processes.

Different types of ships have to be served at the quayside. The most important ones are deep-sea vessels with a loading capacity of up to 8.0 container units (TEU)whichservethemainportsofdifferentcountriesandcontinents.Suchvessels are about 320 m long with a breadth of 43 m and a draught of 13 m; on deck containers can be stowed 8 tiers high and 17 rows wide, in the hold 9 high and 15 wide. The ships’ data call for respective dimensions of the cranes’ height and jib length. Loading of about 2.0 boxes is common in large ports; the same is valid for unloading. Feeder vessels with a capacity of 100 to 1.200 TEU link smaller regional ports with the oversea ports delivering containers for deep-sea vessels. Inland barges are used to transport containers into the hinterland on rivers and channels. Functionally, barges are means of hinterland transportation (like trucks and trains), operationally they are ships which are served by quay cranes.

Trucks have a capacity of up to three TEU. At container terminals they are directed to transfer points where they are loaded and unloaded. To serve trains, railway stations with several tracks may be part of container terminals. The capacity of one train is about 120 TEU. Shuttle trains connecting a terminal with one specific hinterland destination obtain increased importance. The modal split of hinterland transportation is very specific for different ports which has a direct impact on the terminals’ layout and type of equipment.3

The container storage area is usually separated into different stacks (or blocks) which are differentiated into rows, bays and tiers. Some stack areas are reserved for special containers like reefers which need electrical connection, dangerous goods, or overheight/overwidth containers which do not allow for normal stacking. Often stacks are separated into areas for export, import, special, and empty containers.

Besides in these general functions some terminals differ also in their operational units. For example, if railway stations do not exist inside the terminal, containers have to be transported by trucks or other landside transportation means between the external station and the terminal. This results in additional logistic demands.

(Parte 1 de 9)