Applied modelling algorithms for ports and terminals



Simon Shire, Managing Director, Cirrus


The design and application of algorithms in ports and terminals is a specialist discipline which has been advancing in recent years as computer technology has enabled the processing of ever more elaborate algorithms. An algorithm can be defined as a set of procedures which perform computations or calculations which solve a particular mathematical puzzle. This area of mathematics is called operational research (OR) and focuses on applying algorithms to business puzzles. This article is intended to increase awareness of the role algorithms can play in ports and in particular the benefits they can bring to port planning and scheduling.


Most readers will have come across software claiming to ‘optimise’ a process or plan. Unfortunately, this term has become overused and diluted. In ‘OR’ circles, to optimise means to find the best possible solution. Not all problems or challenges have one single best solution, they may have a number of acceptable solutions. Algorithms are good at working through millions of possible scenarios and either finding the best solution or offering a number of acceptable solutions which are compliant to the boundaries imposed. For example, deciding the optimum yard position to store a container may result in a number of acceptable locations, all compliant to ensuring a container can be accessed at a particular point in time.

Whereas determining the optimum onwards …

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