The Port of Rotterdam is one of the busiest in the world, currently ranking number 1 in Europe and number 4 in the world; shipping almost 400 million metric tonnes of cargo per year. However, there is not a lot of physical space in the Rotterdam area to allow further growth. The port will thus have to seek other means of improving, to allow for economic expansion.
With SUPPORT, Almende proposed that the efficiency of the logistics network surrounding the port could be increased if different parties would communicate more and would coordinate their efforts better. The project aimed at developing an ICT solution for supporting and strengthening logistics networks. The Port of Rotterdam served as a real-life testing grounds.
Central to the project was the idea of treating the collection of logistics partners as a network, rather than a chain. If an event causes a disturbance – a container is delayed through customs, a truck driver falls ill – this should not be seen as a broken link that ruins the entire chain, but as a piece of information that can be communicated through the network, so other parties might respond to it.
The project aimed to deliver a system which could coordinate the logistic activities of multiple partners: the container terminal, truckers, etc. SUPPORT connected the parties and enabled communication between them to allow quick response to incidents.
Important was that each party would still be autonomous, and controlled its own activities. But by using available information – for instance, a trucker’s ETA – each party could continuously adapt its own schedule. The project partners took care to safeguard against sharing privacy-sensitive information – only data that were necessary to allow other parties to optimize their planning would be communicated.
Almende participated in the development of the MAS platform. The company also contributed to the creation and use of algorithms to improve the communication between involved parties, for instance, the exchange of information about the prediction of arrival times of trucks and the improvement of container stacking.
Together with CWI and the TU Delft, Almende sees opportunities to deploy the technology, developed within SUPPORT, in the concept of Smart Cities. The European Union embraces this concept which includes sustainable transport.
Together with academic partners TU Delft and the CWI, Almende has designed the intelligent multi-agent system (MAS) platform. Almende's subsidiary DEAL Services was responsible for the actual development, while the logistic partners provided input for the design and tested the system in practice.
Through the MAS-platform partners in the logistics chain could exchange information, allowing the trucking companies to reduce waiting times at the container terminals and allowing the terminals to improve their performance. Almende, DEAL Services and the participating transport companies are planning a future project to test the system at an actual container terminal.