Established in 2015, the Developing Port Growth partnership connects researchers from UQ’s Faculties of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology and Business, Economics and Law with the Port of Brisbane.

The primary purpose of this $2M partnership is to provide PBPL with innovative solutions that will future-proof its position as one of Australia's and Queensland's major facilitators of trade and commerce.

A set of research themes are being pursued that address the significant challenges facing the Port of Brisbane, as well as many other ports regionally and globally. These research themes include:

  • economic analyses that will provide information on the optimisation of supply and logistic chains, and new initiatives around how PBPL manages its economic, social and environmental reporting;
  • studies of how the Port is managing dredging and dredge material, including how dredging is interacting with the megafauna in Moreton Bay;
  • investigations into air quality management including the identification of novel and economically efficient methods to reduce air pollution;
  • examinations into sediment and storm water management that will assist the Port in better understanding the nature of sediment transport in Moreton Bay and the lower Brisbane River; and
  • studies into flora and fauna management that include the use of innovative methods to define the key factors that are impacting upon successful mangrove growth.

The economic research projects include:

Research project 1: Investigation the demand for coastal freight shipping in Queensland

The Port of Brisbane is aiming to grow trade for which an understanding of supply and logistics chains is essential. Information about the demand for freight transportation modes (road, rail, sea) in Queensland is an essential part to understand and optimize the existing of supply and logistics chains. This project explored freight consigner’s and freight forwarder’s potential demand for coastal non-bulk freight shipping, a transport mode that is currently not in the market, compared to the existing road and rail modes on the Brisbane-Townsville corridor. Findings from this study provide the Port of Brisbane and the Queensland Government with information about the potential demand for public and private infrastructure investments as well as the potential need for a change in policies, which may incentivise a modal shift in freight transport. A summary of this study is available on request.

Research project 2: Economic analysis of supply and logistic chain management

The Port of Brisbane needs to understand how freight agents (importers, exporters, shipping lines, carriers, and transhipment agents) manage their supply chains as well as understand what behaviours lies behind their logistics decisions. This will assist the port in making informed decisions about infrastructure investments that are necessary to facilitate smoother and potentially cheaper supply and logistic chains for freight agents. Making use of behavioural econometric models, several decision problem are explored such as the choice of transhipment via container terminals in inland import/export logistics, the choice of route and transport mode.

Furthermore, freight agents can be aided by the exchange of information concerning road traffic conditions, real-time availability of drivers and carriers, and opportunities for bundling of shipments into fewer vehicles. This information exchange has been called a “Port Community System (PCS)”, formally defined as a holistic, geographically bounded information hub in a global supply chain that primarily serves the interest of a heterogeneous collective of port-related companies. Bringing all users together enhances the efficiency of the physical flow of freight, drives economic growth, and as a secondary result, assists in reducing externalities such as pollution, congestion, and land use impacts. For example, the PCS helps transport yards and container parks to predict and plan future shipments and helps carriers to better plan for their fleets while shipping lines can minimise their idle empty container storage, unnecessary truck movements and delay. This research not only explores the adoption of blockchain technology for PCS business model, but also by making use of agent-based simulation modelling enables the cost-benefit analysis of PCS in terms of both logistics costs and environmental impacts. A summary of this study is available on request.

Research project 3: Corporate sustainability governance of ports in Australia and New Zealand

The Port of Brisbane intends to be one of the most sustainable ports in Australia and worldwide. However, there is limited information available about if and how ports in Australia and New Zealand measure their sustainability performance (e.g., economic/financial, social and environmental) and whether this is reported to port stakeholders. The aim of this project is to identify the level of corporate sustainability governance of ports in Australia and New Zealand. The findings from this study will provide the Port of Brisbane and other ports with information about current strengths, gaps and issues relating to sustainability governance. This information may benefit the Port of Brisbane and other ports in their considerations regarding developing or enhancing individual corporate port sustainability strategies and/or an industry-wide sustainability governance strategy.

Research Project 4: Improving inland container transportation through a realistic optimization model

This project is focused on the inland container transportation (aka drayage operation) which refers to the pre- and end-haulage trips. These trips are usually performed by trucks as they require door-to-door pickup and delivery services. The main-haulage which is usually the longest travelling distance is performed by maritime or train. The change of transportation mode is performed at intermodal terminals by transferring the container without handling the freight itself.

Despite being the shorter distance trips, the pre-and end-haulage account for 20 to 80% of the total intermodal transportation cost. These trips are also often blamed for road congestion, environmental pollution, and traffic safety challenges in the service area. As a result, ports which are accommodating intermodal terminals have shown growing attention to improving their inland container transportation services to increase their competitive power.

At the Port of Brisbane, the transport companies in charge of the drayage operation mainly rely on human experts to plan their day to day operations. However, reliance on human planners leads to, in the best case, sub-optimal plans which means increased cost for the transport company, as well as their customers.

We have developed an optimisation model for the drayage operation that aims to reduce the total travelled distance by trucks carrying full and empty containers. The proposed model differs from other existing models in terms of operating in a setting closer to the real world applications.  Our experiments show that despite the complexity of the problem, our formulation can find very close to an optimal solution in reasonable time even for large instances.

Project members

Projects 1 and 3

Dr Peggy Schrobback

Dr Peggy Schrobback

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Australian Institute for Business and Economics

Project 2

Dr Elnaz Irannezhad

Dr Elnaz Irannezhad

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Australian Institute for Business and Economics

Project 4

Dr Mahboobeh Moghaddam

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Australian Institute for Business and Economics