Tech Wisdom: Empty Container Repositioning
Beyond ocean freight, containers are used in supply chains, for example to move cargo from a supplier factory to a buyer distribution centre, but the repositioning of empty containers is a complex management and logistics problem.
It was analysed in a recent paper by Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University Professor Rob Zuidwijk and Delft University of Technology Assistant Professor Bart Wiegmans.
For container carriers, empty container repositioning is a non-revenue generating operation, and it is a costly part of meeting customer demand.
Port regions benefit from a more efficient repositioning system for empty containers, which also contributes to reduced congestion and emissions.
To hedge for uncertain demand and supply, empty containers are stored at designated locations, so-called empty depots.
Optimization routines are often selected to minimise costs. These can incorporate choosing target inventory levels at the empty depots, alongside controlling the flow of empty container between import and export locations, and empty depots, and flows that leave or enter the region.
"Although quite a lot of work has been done to optimize the repositioning of empty containers, the authors of this technical paper claim that more benefits are to be gained by more advanced routines that incorporate additional aspects... "
These aspects could for example include data for direct repositioning, which is transporting containers from inland terminals to other inland terminals, and the cleaning and repairing of containers.