NUS                                        NOL

This is a two-year research project, jointly undertaken by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and NTUA, funding being provided by the NOL Fellowship Programme (NOL for Neptune Orient Lines). The project’s duration is 1 June 2008- 31 May 2010.

The ocean container carriers industry experiences explosive growth of sector as well as increased competition within the sector. Mergers, collaborations and considerable new investments have led to more elaborate fleets and to complex service networks with mega hubs and mega carriers.  Among the many issues arsing, the issue of optimal containership size has been a topic of keen industry interest because of its wide ranging impacts that affect all stack players.  It is a strategic planning problem with long-term implications.  This proposed project considers the optimal containership size problem applicable to the Transpacific and the Asia-Europe trade routes.

The problem of optimal containership size will be addressed in the following aspects: (a) Containership operational and cost considerations; (b) Fleet size and mix optimization; (c) Fleet deployment and routing optimisation; (d) Evaluation of impacts of containership size on hub-and-spoke operations, container-port operations and port infrastructure needs; and (e) A “holistic” approach to develop a decision support system consisting of an integrated framework of models and algorithms of distinct sub-problems.       

The optimal ship size problem in essence is one that attempts to question of which is the best ship for a specific trade. Optimal ship size can be determined or estimated either by not considering other available ships (ships belonging to the fleet and ships that could be chartered-in) or by factoring them in the analysis. The former is studied in Part (a) and the latter in Part (b). Regarding Part (a), the optimal ship size will be examined based on capital and operating costs of the containership, including fuel costs, daily running costs, and port charges, etc., regardless of the operational characteristics of other ships in the fleet.  This cost analysis will be leveraged as input to Part (b), which incorporates fleet size and mix considerations into the optimal ship size problem.  Part (b) aims to create an optimization model to solve the so-called fleet size & mix problem, including the fleet deployment problem, and ocean container routing problems under the condition of deterministic demand. The analysis will focus on the Transpacific and the Asia-Europe trade routes.

In Part (c), an optimal fleet deployment and routing model with cargo demand uncertainty will be developed to determine the optimal fleet deployment and route assignments to maximise the profit of the liner shipping company considered.  A model for assessing the impacts of the selected fleet deployment and routing strategy on hub-and-spoke operations (under Part (d)) will also be investigated.  The case of the Singapore Port will be used for the purpose of this analysis.

The evaluation of impacts of containership size on port operations and port infrastructure needs in Part (d) will address the following aspects of port-related issues of the containership size problem: (i) Effect on berth throughput; (ii) Effect on container yard operations; and (iii) Port infrastructure improvement needs.  These aspects will be studied with respect to three container ports with different layouts and dimensions of berths and yard.  The three ports selected for this proposed research are the Port of Singapore, the Port of Piraeus and the Port of Rotterdam.

The last component of the proposed project (i.e. Part (e)) will adopt a “holistic” approach to the problem by factoring the inter-related sub-problems analysed earlier.  An integrated framework of analysis incorporating interactions among the different distinct sub-problems will be developed.  This holistic approach will leverage and enhance the contribution reached in some of the previous tasks. Integrated solution algorithms could simultaneously solve for the optimal containership size and fleet mix, and the optimal routes. 

The outcome of the proposed analysis is expected to provide information on the issue of optimal containership size sensitive to port tariffs, fuel oil prices, port infrastructure productivity, and hub-and-spoke characteristics of the ports concerned, among other factors.

NOL Fellowship Programme:

[back to top]