A New Angle on Container Ports

Goran Ivanović recently published an article entitled, “A different kind of container yard” in the journal World Port Development.  By “different kind,” he means layouts based on the fishbone and chevron aisle structures we have used for unit-load warehouses. (Goran is a former student whose own work produced insights into aisle designs for warehouses with multiple pickup and deposit points.) The article is difficult to find on the web, so if you’d like a copy, please contact Goran (address below).

Here’s what a little fresh thinking does to the traditional container port:

The chevron port design. Source: Ivanović Consultants.

For those unfamiliar with our previous work, diagonally arranging aisles, or in this case container stacks, allows vehicles (here, straddle carriers) to travel straight line distances when they otherwise would have to travel rectilinear distances (east-west, north-south). Reduced distance means higher productivity measured in containers moved per hour—presto, higher port throughput. The article also lists other benefits of the chevron arrangement, including improved storage density (I’ll let the reader ponder that one) and reduced rutting of pavement areas—I love this one!

Fishbone aisles in a container port. This design has lower expected travel cost, at the expense of slightly lower storage density. Source: Ivanović Consultants.

A fishbone design doesn’t fare as well on storage density, but it has better distance performance than the chevron and the traditional. As the article states, “new concepts offer the ability to trade space for travel distance and traffic speed, depending on what’s more important to an operator.” Just like the warehouse.

I probably don’t need to say this, but I’m thrilled to see this clever application of “non-rectilinear thinking” to a new domain. If Goran can deliver improved throughput to even one of the world’s international ports—many of which are operating at throughput capacity, by the way—he will have done a great service to the world economy (yes, I just said that). Ports really matter, and in my opinion, they are ripe for a revolution in design.

What would a full blown implementation of these ideas look like? Here is a graphic his firm generated:

A new kind of container port based on diagonal aisles. Source: Ivanović Consultants.

You get the idea, I trust.

This is probably a good place to mention that what looks like a simple insight is often more difficult to apply in practice than it appears. The exact dimensions and access points of a real port will differ from the graphics above, of course, so these designs should be considered conceptual. Russ Meller and I learned this with the original aisle design work, which was misapplied by more than one company that meant well. If only they had called us. …

Here’s hoping that someone in Singapore or Rotterdam or Long Beach sees this work and gives Goran a call. He can be reached at goran.ivanovic@yandex.ru. You can learn more about this work at his website.

First the warehouse, now the container port.

Rail yards, anyone?

[Correction: An earlier version of this post had “stacker crane” instead of “straddle carrier.” Yikes!]

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