Maritime Simulation

Automations and digitalisation in logistic processes nowadays increases the complexity of logistic systems (supply nets, terminals and warehouses) and leads to highly linked systems. Their dimensioning as well as start-up and optimization of operational processes require technical assistance today.

A technology, which has been successfully implemented in the manufacturing sector for years already and found its way into the logistics, is simulation technology. It is defined as a “copy of a dynamic process in form of a model to get knowledge which can be applied to the real system” (VDI guideline 3633).

Fields of Applications are:

Supporting the planning of logistic systems

Planned terminals and systems may be analysed under laboratory conditions. The current planning state may be optimised regarding the layout, the traffic network, the type and amount of equipment used and the strategies to be applied.


Before going live logistic systems are checked whether the internal and external components and communications are working together in an efficient way. Step by step the components may be linked together during this process.

Acceptence test of the control software

By coupling the real control system with simulation models, which are modeling the material flow, the control software may be tested. Not only the functionality but also the efficiency of the software parameters may be tested in unit as well as stress tests. This technology called „emulation” secures the go live and reduces the risk.


Equipment simulators (e.g. flight-, vessel-, crane-simulators) are standards in training programs in the industry. The same approach may be used for the control staff of logistic systems. Besides terminal operators the CHESSCON simulators are also used within the academic training in universities.

Short-term forecasts during the day-to-day

A new approach to support the day-to-day operation in logistic systems is based on the emulation technology. All information available about the planning state of the current operation is imported directly from the real control system (e.g. working queues, staff and equipment planning for working areas). Based on this information a fast simulation model forecasts the future operation and detects bottlenecks before they occur. Thus the control staff will be in the position to act pro-active instead of waiting for bottlenecks and re-act only.

Within various research projects ISL has used simulation and emulation technology for logistic systems. The models have been developed in the language of the end-user. Thus the models may be used directly by the end-user (e.g. terminal operator, supply chain manager) without specific knowledge in IT or simulation technology.

ISL has especially concentrated its simulation experience in the following application areas in maritime logistics (refer also to the project descriptions in ISL’s other competence fields):

Design and dimensioning of logistic (especially container) terminals

Various simulation modules are concentrating on the processes of container terminals in different detail levels. These modules are branded “CHESSCON” worldwide (reference to Applications are calculating terminals capacity (Capacity), dimensioning of terminals (Simulation), visualization of the current yard utilization (Yard View), start-up and strategy optimization (Virtual Terminal) and the optimization of the day-to-day operation (Shift Preview).

Chart:  Coupling of simulator and control system - Virtual Terminal
Coupling of simulator and control system - Virtual Terminal

Analysing intermodal Transport chains

For analysing intermodal transport chains the traffic networks of the different modes of transport as well as the transshipment terminals are modeled. This so called “Cargo Traffic Simulation – CTS” allows the investigation of the good flows regarding the variation of different parameters (e.g. fuel prices, ecological regulations). With an additional “Supply Chain Visualisation” the effects on the good itself and environmental factors may be analysed.

Chart:  „Study on the TEN-T Motorways of the Sea Horizontal Priority“, European commision, DG MOVE
„Study on the TEN-T Motorways of the Sea Horizontal Priority“, European commision, DG MOVE

Logistics-diagnostics for project cargo

Using the example of off-shore-wind-parks the supply net of all component suppliers, manufacturers and ports to build the wind park off-shore is modelled. Especially the transshipment terminals required as well as different special types of transport and handling equipment is regarded. By additionally modelling the weather conditions (e.g. wind, waves) the effects on the transport and building processes are regarded. The network design (e.g. selection of base ports) as well as different logistic strategies (shuttle- vs. feeder-service) may be compared by looking at overall construction time, costs and resources.

Chart:  Weather effects on overall construction time and costs
Weather effects on overall construction time and costs

Port design and dimensioning

The design and dimensioning of the vessel traffic network in the port is optimized based on forecasts of the annual cargo throughput, the vessel types serving the port and the capacity of the terminals. Tidal restrictions as well as traffic regulations in special segments of the port are influencing these results. By adding ecological parameters to the vessel database used the model is able to forecast the pollutant emissions caused by the maritime traffic in the port. In this way the positive effects of reduction technologies (vessel- and port-related) are evaluated.

Chart:  Parameters regarded in the calculation of pollutant emissions
Parameters regarded in the calculation of pollutant emissions

Current and completed projects for this competence field are shown as references in the lists of projects.