Owing to trade imbalance, shipping lines accumulate a large number of unnecessary empty containers in the Middle East, whilst some export ports such as Hong Kong and Japan often face a shortage of empty containers. The purpose of this research is to study dynamic empty container allocation problem to dispatch empty containers from the Middle East to various export ports in the Far East region, and reposition surplus empty containers at any port to shortage ports in anticipation of future demand in subsequent periods. Due to the uncertain data in the global containerization environment, a stochastic programming model is developed. By adjusting penalty parameters, an optimal empty container allocation plans can be determined. A numerical example is used to test the efficacy and robustness of the model. The results show the importance of trade-off between high cost and high risk of potentially under-fulfillment of market demand.
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