The Port of Ningbo has successfully completed a one-year trial operation
of its intelligent truck dispatch system developed by the University of
Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC). According to the Port, the new system
has helped achieve efficiency gains and progress toward greener
This system is the brainchild of UNNC Artificial Intelligence and
Optimisation (AIOP) Research Group, led by Professor Ruibin Bai from the
School of Computer Science.
The Port of Ningbo has long been one of the world’s busiest ports and in
recent years has become number one in terms of annual cargo, which now
surpasses one billion tonnes. However, along with rising cargo volumes
came the challenge to raise productivity with limited resources. The
Port turned to digital innovation for the answer.
Responding to the Port’s needs, Professor Bai started the project in
2015 with several other UNNC researchers and identified a bottleneck in
truck traffic management, especially crane-truck synchronisation.
Although the Port was already equipped with a terminal operating system
to generate automated solutions for real time crane-truck matching,
results were derived from oversimplified rules based on human
experiences, which were not ideal. Consequently, many container truck
drivers would drive around with no cargo loaded, which the team
identified as a defect that needed to be improved.
Built on classic mathematical models with machine learning techniques,
the intelligent truck dispatch system uses algorithms that can produce
optimised solutions within one second.
After running the system for a year, the Port concluded that
productivity had been greatly increased and costs slashed. A project
summary report detailed that the idle time for cranes has been reduced
by approximately 10%, empty vehicle driving distances shortened by more
than 10% and emissions decreased as a result.
Professor Ruibin Bai is now working with the Port to fix other
operational challenges. He says his long-term goal is to support more
businesses – including logistics and manufacturing – to “go smart”.
He said: “In 2003, the University of Nottingham was the first in the
world to develop the Hyper-Heuristics method. 16 years later, we use
this method to create real world solutions that benefit the local
economy. We feel very encouraged, seeing the feedback from Ningbo Port,
and more determined to apply our research to wider industry needs.”