As inland shipping has been playing a more and more important role in integrated transportation system, the optimization of such a network with empty containers repositioning is of great practical significance to raise inland shipping service level so as to promote freight mode shift from land to water. This paper addresses the construction of system service network for inland water containers transportation (IWCT).
We incorporate the specific natures of inland waterway containers transportation and formulate the inland waterway system containers transportation into a mathematic model. It is a complex giant problem to optimize routing and fleet deployment for the whole network at the same time. Thus, a combined algorithm with genetic algorithm (GA) and Integer programming (IP) calculations are designed to solve this program. Further, a network of Yangtze River ports is studied.
A set of shipping routes, including the calling ports, service frequency and type of the used ship of each route are figured out by the IWCT network optimization model. This set of shipping routes is a combination of short routes and long routes. The direct links are commonly used for moving large quantities of containers between two ports. While for small containers flow, longer routes are used to bund cargo flows by calling as many ports as possible.
Most present network optimization studies are focused on network design and fleet deployment about ocean and coastal container shipping. However the features of inland water shipping network are different and related studies are rare. This paper aims to fill this gap. Taking the specific features of IWCT into consideration, the proposed model is suitable for the service network design in IWCT network. And the experimental results verify the validity of the combined algorithm. Point-to-point direct route is the most economic mode for large cargo flows between ports. When the containers flow is small, routes calling at multiple ports can achieve economies of scale through bundling.