Incorporating commodity flexibility in terminal design: A design strategy on dealing with uncertainties

  • Bart Wiegmans (Speaker)
  • P. Leo (Speaker)
  • Schott, D. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference



Increasingly, terminals are exposed to growing uncertainties based on large fluctuations in trade volumes, shorter customer contracts and changing demand. In order to cope with the growing uncertainties, flexible terminal design has been introduced in terminal design. Flexibility research so far has been executed for terminals for a single commodity type (dry bulk or liquid bulk or containers). This paper seeks to broaden this scope by looking at commodity flexible terminal design, which means incorporating the change from one commodity to the other over (life)time in the design phase (e.g. a terminal is developed for the export of iron ore and after 20 years when the mine is empty, the terminal is redesigned into an import container terminal). This is done by answering the research question: How can commodity flexibility be incorporated in terminal design and what are its consequences?

Data and methodology

The focus is on 4 commodities: container, crude oil, iron ore and grain which also correspond with four terminal types located in Africa, Asia and South America. Based on literature review a dependency terminal design framework was created. This ‘Staged Dependency Framework' showed the differences in the design dependencies for each terminal type. Given the exploratory character of the research, literature review and interviews with key players in terminal design have been chosen as the research methods. Furthermore, case study research has been used to analyse 12 concept terminals (four commodity terminal types in three different sizes each). Based on a set of criteria the commodity flexibility for each concept terminal has been assessed through literature review (to embed the outcomes of the paper in the existing literature), case study analysis and interviews.

Expected results

Through literature review and the dependency framework a list of similar (for the four terminal types) as well as unique (per terminal type) dependencies were found. Similar dependencies are: vessel sizes, hinterland connections, type of area required, HSSE regulations, and berthing maritime conditions. Furthermore, a total of seven unique dependencies have been identified. Another result is that changes in design related to commodity flexibility should be incorporated in the first two design stages. In the end, commodity flexibility will always be a trade off in initial CAPEX increase (cost) vs. possible CAPEX decrease in the future (flexibility).
Period13 Jul 2016
Event title14th World Conference on Transport Research
Event typeConference
Conference number14
LocationShanghai, ChinaShow on map