Kong could become more competitive and even more efficient in cargo
handling as a result of research being carried out at the Hong Kong
University of Science and Technology.
are looking at how best to manage transportation resources at three
levels; within facilities such as cargo terminals, within city boundaries,
and at a regional level between Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta
Kong is like nowhere else in the world, said Principal Investigator
Prof Raymond Cheung, because conditions are complex and dynamic.
work is focused on providing models and solutions through algorithms
that bring flexibility to planning by allowing users to factor in
changes as they occur.
Prof Cheung said: Routing used to be planned well in advance
and then it was difficult to change anything, but that does not
suit a dynamic place like Hong Kong where the situation can change
all the time.
In terms of operations at container and air cargo terminals,
Hong Kong is extremely efficient. But connections between terminals
and the final destinations are very weak.
regional level, he said it is about US$200 more expensive to route
a container truck from Dongguang to Hong Kong, than to the nearby
Chinese port of Yantien. We may never be cheaper than Yantien
but maybe we can reduce the difference to US$20, he said.
of the inefficiency of the Dongguang-Hong Kong route is the Chinese
authoritys four-up four-down regulation. The regulation
says that the same Hong Kong driver, tractor, trailer and container
making a delivery in the PRD area must return simultaneously to
Hong Kong from the same China drop-off point.
likely that means the driver can make only one trip a day and that
the container returns empty. The reason for the constraint stems
from a bygone era of cross-border smuggling but Prof Cheung believes
the rule will be relaxed within a few years.
however, have more flexibility as they can return to Hong Kong from
a Chinese port other than the one where they delivered containers.
Another consideration for logistics providers, said Prof Cheung,
maybe where to park an empty container; for example leave it in
Hong Kong or near a manufacturing centre in China.
understanding is that its decided on an ad hoc basis,
he said. Our challenge is how to build a regional network
offering a reliable, cost-efficient service.
Hong Kong level, one problem for transporters is that there is no
zip code, said Prof Cheung, so that pinpointing the location of
a delivery vehicle at any time can be difficult. Other delivery
problems include limited parking space, street restrictions, unpredictable
road conditions, and vertical delivery required at multistorey warehouses.
facility level, Prof Cheungs algorithms may be able to help
increase the capacity of air cargo or ocean container terminals
by better managing the freight flows. We can help with the
routing, said Prof Cheung. For example, if five containers
arrive at the same time, they dont all need to follow the
shortest path. Routing some of them on a longer path may actually
reduce the transportation time.
at a workable algorithm, Prof Cheung needed to cooperate with experts
in a variety of disciplines including data mining, engineering and
software development. Having defined a situation for solving, a
vital step is in explaining it in terms of mathematical language
and vice versa. So if we have a mathematical model, can we
really interpret it using its industry language? he said.
If we can do both, we have a very good understanding of the
next step is to build the algorithm, which solves the problem. Sometimes
we can have a very good algorithm in the sense that, if everything
is fixed, it works well. But if something changes in the model,
will the algorithm still give a good solution? For the Hong Kong
situation, the algorithm needs to be very robust.
the algorithm constructed, it needs to be translated into computer
language so it can be graphically represented, then implemented
and tested with assimilations.
Prof Cheung: Certainly we can help Hong Kong cargo handlers
reduce costs. I think the bigger impact will be that, if we can
continue to offer a more reliable service, Hong Kong will continue
to be a good choice.
Prof Raymond K M Cheung : firstname.lastname@example.org