Thursday, November 6, 2014

Maritime Container Terminals, Game Theory, and Math is Everything!

Today I heard a terrific talk, Playing Games at Maritime Container  Terminals, which was given by Professor Golias from the University of Memphis in Tennessee. Professor Golias was hosted by the Transportation group at UMass Amherst.

I loved the way he described how his visit to a port cen=mented his education and research directions and his enthusiasm for the various research issues was clear. Since I also have a Visiting Professorship at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, I have often visited  the major port there, which has even welcomed the biggest ship in the world, owned by Maersk, and called Mary.

Professor Golias emphasized the differences between freight and passenger transport, and noted that Europe is a leaer in both research and practice when it comes to freight and I fully agree. He talked about the fact that, in freight, you only make money when you are moving, so  delays due to congestion and lack of collaboration can result in lower profits. He motivated his research by talking about globalized supply chains and maritime transport of containers. He had many photos in his presentation, which held our interest.

His particular approach was inspired by the work of Professor Michael Bell, well-known in transportation circles, who is from the United Kingdom. He talked about issues of seaside, yardside, and landside, and the transfer issues of containers, which are brought by ships to the port, then unloaded, stored, and loaded again for further  transport. He emphasized uncertainty as to handling times and even weather and three approaches: reactive, proactive, and hybrid. He also noted the relevance of multiobjective optimization.

He pointed out the various stakeholders involved and that one has to model the behavior of the different decision-makers, which I fully concur with and that is what we do in our competitive supply chain network models.

He emphasized game theory from Nash equilibrium to Stackelberg equilibria and hierarchical decision-making associated with ports. 

I almost got up to cheer when he told the students the importance of learning as much as possible when they are at the university and to take courses in operations research and computer science as well as from business schools. He also mentioned variational inequalities, which is the methodology that I utilize in our game theory network models.

And, he had a slide that said, "Math is Everything!" He emphasizes the importance of math to optimization and game theory problems both in his classes and in talks.

He also listed hot topics in freight - I could add to the list since I am lately obsessing about freight network problems and synergies and similarities to Future Internet Architectures, but that may be a topic for another blogpost.

Some of the hot topics according to Professor Golias:
  • near-shoring and reshoring
  • the impact of the rebuilding of the Panama Canal and Suez Canal on shipping
  • port asset management
  • truck driver shortages
  • chassis shortages for containers.

I leave you with the photos taken at this great seminar today.
Also, since one of my former PhD students, Tina Wakolbinger, had her first academic position at the University of Memphis, in its business school, and I had been there to give two talks, it was special to have a faculty member from there come to UMass to speak. Tina is now a Full Professor at the Vienna University of Economics and Business and leads its Supply Chain Management Institute (Yes, several of my former students truy have their dream jobs).