Ports and Waterways

The world's economy relies heavily on waterborne supply chains. Approximately 80% of all global trade is carried by marine transport; according to UNCTAD/RMT/2021, the total tonnage is divided among containers (19%), main bulk (30%), other dry cargo (24%) and tanker trades (27%). The overall efficiency of global supply chains is to a great extent determined by the in-port and hinterland transport networks to which they are connected.

A major challenge in the field of port and waterway engineering is the timely adaptation of water transport networks, and their associated infrastructure, to ever-changing external circumstances, such as increasing vessel sizes, developments in trade, political instability, climate change, increased focus on sustainability, the energy transition, autonomous shipping, digitalisation, etc. Large investments are required to maintain (and where possible improve) competitive positions. Optimising while markets continuously rebalance requires insight, skill, fundamental and applied research. Getting it wrong is not only very costly but may severely impact future competitiveness.

The design and operation of port and waterway systems is a complex challenge that involves many disciplines. External triggers force actors to continuously review whether their policies and positions will be sustainable. Often measures need to be taken to adapt to the changing world. Non-linear feedbacks that exist in and between these systems make it risky to rely on intuition and experience alone. Port and waterway professionals embrace this complexity and develop and compare alternative strategies for the design and operation of waterborne supply chains to support decision making. This requires a thorough understanding of the key elements of port and waterway systems, and their complex interactions, in order to create a system in which transport capacity, efficiency, safety and sustainability meet pre-de ned objectives in a well-balanced way.

The Ports and Waterways section gives students multi-perspective insights in the workfield of a port engineer and in inland water transport (see here). The MSc students get acquainted with the state of the art of operations, simulations and innovations of ports and waterways. During A and B Modules, the aspects of port and waterway planning, nautical design, queuing theory, port accessibility, sustainable sediment management, port economics and environmental aspects of port planning and inland waterborne transport are addressed.

The applied research at the Ports and Waterways section is mainly focused on the following research lines:

  • Nautical traffic, capacity and safety
  • Sediment management and port accessibility
  • Ports and waterways infrastructure
  • Sustainability in ports and waterways
  • Digitalization in ports and digital twinning

Within these research lines, the graduate students carry out their research projects with international port authorities, top research institutes, consultancies, dredging companies and governmental organizations.

Container ship in port, by ‘add creator’ is licenced under ‘add licence’

Quay wall construction Amaliahaven, Port of Rotterdam (2022), by M. van Koningsveld is licenced under CC BY-SA 4.0

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