PORTeC runs a strong PhD programme and our members are actively involved with teaching in various courses inside Imperial College. Our current research and projects cover a broad range of port-related topics including the interfaces between ports, logistics and other transport modes and infrastructures. We often undertake collaborative work with research groups within the Centre for Transport Studies and the wider research community in Imperial College London.

  • For more information regarding opportunities for postgraduate research within PORTeC, please contact us.

Port operations

Port Automation/Simulation

Limen: A Port Simulation/Optimisation Framework

Project Manager: Dr Panagiotis Angeloudis

A modular framework capable of simulating container, passenger and RoRo ports has been under developement within PORTeC, and has already been applied with great success in the context of consultancy and research projects undertaken by the group.

The framework also contains 3D visualisation and data analysis engines, capable of providing in-depth comparisons of the current and to-be states of the simulated environment, thus simplifying the task of decision makers in the planning phase of large projects.

Screenshot of an automated container terminal port simulated within Limen
Screenshot of an automated container terminal port simulated within Limen

Environmental impacts

Eco-friendly port design and operation

Research student: Thalis Zis / Supervisors: Prof. Michael Bell, Dr. Panagiotis AngeloudisDr. Robin North

In recent years a major concern in port operations has been the minimization of environmental effects. Ports have been trying to attain a ‘greener’ status by introducing new technologies and renewing their infrastructure while avoiding unnecessary energy use. The port is considered as a system comprising of several different parts, all of which contribute to its environmental footprint. The project targets to fully analyse various types of ports and identify energy demands as well as environmental effects of each part of the terminal. It will try to minimize the environmental effects of terminals, and intends to state guidelines on the eco-friendly design and operations of ports. It will look at how best to deploy new and existing technologies, like hybrid cranes, eco-friendly port design and various forms of automation, as well as new practices, such as “cold ironing” (connecting berthed ships to land-based power supplies), to minimize emissions and energy consumption (especially if power supply origins from Renewable Sources of Energy). Optimization through Operations Research techniques will be used to decide the way cargo (whether bulk or containers) will be managed (in what order it will be treated, what would be the optimal combination of equipment for various case studies etc).

Port Security

Modelling the impacts of security on container-port operational efficiency and benchmarking

Student: Khalid Bichou / Supervisors: Prof. Michael Bell, Prof. Andrew Evans & Prof. Robert Cochrane / Submission: 2008

Since the terrorist attacks in the US in September 2001, a series of compulsory and voluntary programmes aimed at enhancing port and maritime security have been introduced, with a special emphasis on vulnerabilities stemming from containerised sea-trade operations. Nevertheless, although the literature on the subject has sought to examine the security measures and their economic, trade and policy implications, few or no attempt have been undertaken to analyse the impacts of the new security framework on operational efficiency of maritime and logistics settings, in particular container ports and terminals. This project attempts to model the ex-post impacts of the new security measures on world's container port operational efficiency and benchmarking that is the extent to which the procedures and requirements induced by the new security measures have impacted the efficiency of container port operations.

Yard Planning

Analysis of container flows in a container terminal

Student: Nang Ma Laik / Supervisor: Dr. Eleni Hadjiconstantinou / Submission: 2008

Container terminal operations are complex and sophisticated. In our project, we like to focus our attention in one of the most important areas in container terminal operations - yard planning. We consider all container flows which include import, export and transhipment in the container yard and analyse the best strategy to store the containers to facilitate loading and minimise the number of yard crane required in the yard.

Maritime transport

LNG economics

Modelling Short Term and Long Term Sales in LNG Business

Research student: Hamed Nikhalat / Supervisors: Prof. Michael Bell and Prof. Robert Cochrane

The rising of LNG market in the last two decades has brought a new type of sale to industry, short term sale. While the traditional type of contracts, long term ones, are still playing an important role in the business; a model which simulate both type of sales in a project simultaneously seems to be necessary. This project tries to do such a modeling by implementing inventory routing problem (IRP) equations into LNG business, which means we try to minimize the costs of fulfilling the long term contracts (Inventory costs and transport costs), meanwhile maximize the profit of selling the surplus LNG (not contracted) in short term sales. In the next stages of research by studying the capital structure of LNG projects, we hope to develop the model in a way to predict the percentage of a project which should be dedicated to long term contracts (for a secure debt service) and the production share that could be sold in short term sales.

Port choice

Container port choice modelling

Research student: Xin Liu / Supervisor: Prof. Michael Bell

If past growth of container flows is to continue into the future, the UK will require a substantial increase in port capacity. Where this extra capacity will be located depends on commercial decisions and the outcomes of planning applications. To support policy in this domain, it is important to develop a model that accurately predicts the impact of extra port capacity in different locations on container flows and end-to-end transport costs. This project will review past work on port choice and container flow modelling and then formulate a model suitable for the UK context, even applied in other context. This will consider direct vessel calls, transhipment from continental ports and inter-lining. The impact of vessel size and bunker fuel cost will be taken into account. What’s more, this project may raise more interests owing to the downturn influence caused by the economic crunch.

Supply chain vulnerability

Supply chain vulnerability analysis applied to energy networks

Student: Konstantinos Zavitsas / Supervisors: Prof. Michael Bell / Submission: 2011

The recent terrorist events have brought up the issue of infrastructure security and network vulnerability. Due to these events, the defending of critical infrastructure has become a highly prioritized task and several studies have attempted to approach the issue from different perspectives. This proposal attempts to apply game theory, considering attacks on both energy routes and nodes, to the global energy supply network. Causes of the a ttacks can be aggressive action (i.e. terrorism, pi racy), accidental damage (i.e. ship collisions, pipeline fractures) or natural disasters (i.e. earthquakes damage to pipelines). After modelling the worldwide energy network, the crit ical nodes and links can be identified, so that appropriat e defensive measures can be applied to those sites on ly besides minimizing t he overall network co st outlay.

Market Competitiveness

Analysis of the market structure uncertainty in the liner shipping industry

Student: Giovanni Luca Barletta / Supervisors: Prof. Michael Bell and Dr. Eleni Hadjiconstantinou / Submission: 2010

The last years witnessed a huge growth of international production, especially from fast growing economies, which impacted the volume of container trades worldwide, showing rates of growth of 8% per year on average. However, the distribution of this growth has been uneven in terms of market shares, leading to a high degree of concentration in the market.. This feature, together with the existence of alliances and conferences, raised concerns by anti-trust commissions. In particular, the EU, following the example of the US, repealed the block exemption for liner conferences with effect from 2008, undermining collusive behaviour by the carriers. This project analyses how the structure of the liner shipping market will change in the light of the new regulations.

Freight logistics

Inland terminals

Improving the Efficiency of Freight Traffic: a Nigerian Case Study

Research student: Precious Ikem / Supervisors: Prof. Michael Bell

The efficiency of freight transport services in moving goods from ports to destinations is crucial to successful trading (UNCTAD, 1994). The lack of fluidity of freight flow in urban areas has been pointed out as evidence of barriers to trade. Once in the ports, efficiency of the inland transport services affects the remaining cost of transporting the goods. Recent research has pushed for the need to improve physical, institutional and legal infrastructure, in order to develop transport services and facilitate trade. Nigeria is a typical case where the increase in freight volume, increase in population, and location of ports within close proximity to major GDP generators affects logistical efficiency. The research aims, by studying Nigeria, to propose several recommendations for improving the transport efficiency for goods travelling from ports to inland destinations. The objective of this study is to identify changes to the transport and distribution infrastructure which reduce costs in the supply chains of the basic commodities that drive economic development. To assess the effect of various scenarios on current transport systems, and to produce a framework for designing an efficient freight transport network.

Public Private Partnerships

COST Action TU1001 on Public Private Partnerships

Researchers: Prof. Sheila Farrelll

PORTeC is collaborating with universities in 36 other countries to compile and analyse existing research into Public Private Partnerships, focusing on five key issues:

- how to identify and design a good PPP
- how to decide whether a PPP is working well
- how PPPs, once operational, should respond to changes in the external business environment
- the extent to which the design of a successful PPP is affected by national culture
- how the design of PPPs varies by mode of transport

The EU-funded research began in September 2010, and is expected to last for four years. PORTeC is one of four universities dealing with the issue of port concessions, a topic on which it already has considerable experience. 

Stochastic operation scheduling

Optimisation of Risk in Stochastic Project Scheduling problems

Student: Evelina Klerides / Supervisors: Dr. Eleni Hadjiconstantinou / Submission: 2010

The uncertainty, complexity and uniqueness of projects make the development of efficient and effective decision-making tools a challenging yet vital task. While scheduling in a "perfect-information" state has been intensively researched, this research aims at developing proactive tools in devising "front-end" plans under uncertainty. We examine the application of optimisation and Stochastic Programming techniques in the selection of risk-schedules for a special class of project scheduling problems which bear additional complexity due to the stochastic nature of some problem parameters.