Combining Optimization and Simulation for Designing a Robust Short-sea Feeder Network
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Here we study a short-sea feeder network design problem based on mother and daughter vessels. The main feature of the studied system is performing transshipment of cargo between mother and daughter vessels at appropriate locations at sea. This operation requires synchronization between both types of vessels as they have to meet at the same location at the same time. This paper studies the problem of designing a synchronized feeder network, explicitly accounting for the effect of uncertain travel times caused by harsh weather conditions. We propose an optimization-simulation framework to find robust solutions for the transportation system. The optimization model finds optimal routes that are then evaluated by a discrete-even simulation model to measure their robustness under uncertain weather conditions. This process of optimization simulation is repeated until a satisfactory condition is reached. To find even better solutions, we include different performance-improving strategies by adding robustness during route generation or exploiting flexibility in sailing speed to recover from delays. We apply the solution method to a case based on realistic data from a Norwegian shipping company. The results show that the method finds near-optimal solutions that offer robustness against schedule perturbations due to harsh weather. They also highlight the importance of considering uncertainty when designing a short-sea feeder network with transshipment at sea.