Digital twinning for ports : from characterization to operations’ modelling

Abstract: Ports are actively pursuing greater operational efficiency to effectively handle the increasing global flow of goods, while striving to improve the energy efficiency of their operations to comply with new environmental regulations. As a result, innovation-leading ports have begun to recognize the potential of digital twins to overview, coordinate and optimize port processes, resulting in energy savings, and reductions of costs and of CO2 emissions. While digital twins have gained momentum in other domains such as smart manufacturing and aerospace, their adoption in ports has been comparatively slow. This can be explained, among other things, by the multi-stakeholder nature of the port and the high complexity of the often interconnected port processes. Thus, this thesis, grounded in the context of ports, discusses what constitutes a digital twin, proposes characteristics to assess the maturity of existing digital twins, and introduces and evaluates mathematical models to support a key port process, which can be used as components of a digital twin for the port. The thesis is composed of three papers: Paper 1 is based on an extensive literature review, through which digital twins among different domains are studied in depth in order to transfer insights from these to the port domain. The resulting discussion of what constitutes a port’s digital twin and the requirements that a port’s digital twin must fulfil, together with a discussion of use cases of how port digital twins can contribute to energy savings, form the basis of Paper 1. Paper 2 discusses how digital twins’ maturity can be assessed within six maturity levels and presents milestones for their implementation. Notably, Interoperability is identified as the highest maturity level, as the numerous stakeholders and their respective digital twins must work together to reach a coordinated system of systems performance. Using this assessment demonstrates that only a few innovation-leading ports have developed sophisticated digital twinning solutions so far. Paper 3 is dedicated to coordinating container retrieval with stacking, combining two key port operations. Thus, it can present a key modeling component of a port digital twin, considering jointly the goals of reducing the energy demanding crane movements, as well as keeping schedules tight to avoid port congestion issues. This is directly reflecting the potentially conflicting perspectives of different stakeholders in the port context. The provided optimization model and algorithm show that jointly addressing both problems may lead to a reduced efficiency of both individual objectives, but from a systems perspective, leads to a higher overall port efficiency. 

  This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.