Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ant gives Port of Rotterdam a good example

12.12.2008
According to researcher Albert Douma, of the University of Twente, it is possible to optimize the handling of inland container barges in the port of Rotterdam without management from the top. This is similar to the way in which ants organize themselves, without a central director. As a result of his ‘multi-agent’ approach, the time barges spend in the port can be reduced considerably.

Douma has developed a new method for the optimum planning of the rotation of a barge in the port: the barge loads or unloads containers at various terminals in the best possible order, that is, the order that gives the least delay.

A central director would seem to be the most obvious solution here, but this is not usual because barge and terminal operators do not like to divulge competition-sensitive information. However, the present system of making appointments is vulnerable and entails a great deal of uncertainty with regard to waiting times. In a port that is becoming busier and busier, this can cause unnecessary waiting times.

Agents negotiate
Douma has therefore opted for a multi-agent approach that is similar to the ‘self organization’ in an ant colony. An agent is an intelligent software program that has a limited number of tasks, as does the ant: it has to negotiate to the best of its abilities for its client but otherwise has no overview of the greater whole. The barges and terminals each have one of these agents. Mr Douma has the agents negotiate with regard to the ‘service time’ or total waiting time and handling time at any given terminal.

Of the negotiation strategies examined, this service time profile gave the best planning results. The barge’s agent asks for the service profiles of the terminals and can quickly determine the best order in which to visit the terminals. Subsequently the barge’s and the terminal’s agents agree on the times: the barge arrives before a certain time and the terminal promises to complete activities within a maximum service time.

Mr Douma says that simulations with the multi-agent approach in realistic port situations show that the method is able to considerably reduce the average time for which barges stay in the port. The total waiting time decreases, for example, because the barge operator will first try to make agreements with the terminal which seems to be causing a bottleneck; he uses the waiting time for that terminal efficiently by planning other terminals in that same period. However, the system is not rigid: the ‘service time’ concept allows a certain amount of leeway so that it is still possible for terminals to fit in other barges if circumstances change. The research also included the development of a ‘serious game’, which was played in various workshops with port professionals. The game sessions enabled the refinement of the agent concept and discussions on the feasibility of putting the system into practice.

Albert Douma has defended his PhD on 9 December . His thesis is titled ‘Aligning the operations of barges and terminals through distributed planning’. He was supervised by Dr Peter Schuur and Prof. Jos van Hillegersberg. The research is part of the national project TRANSUMO (Transition to Sustainable Mobility, www.transumo.nl) in The Netherlands and is being carried out at the Centre for Telematics and Information Technology (CTIT) of the University of Twente.

Wiebe van der Veen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.utwente.nl

More articles from Transportation and Logistics:

nachricht Study sets new distance record for medical drone transport
13.09.2017 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

nachricht Researchers 'count cars' -- literally -- to find a better way to control heavy traffic
10.08.2017 | Florida Atlantic University

All articles from Transportation and Logistics >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>