A new algorithm could simplify decisions for sh

A new decision support tool could be a game-changer in the dredging of shipping channels. Millions of dollars are at stake every time a major shipping channel is cleaned up. Dredging delays can cost even more by triggering increased risk, repeated maintenance and lost revenue. In either case, the task cannot be postponed indefinitely.

All ship channels must be regularly cleared of sand, debris deposited on the bottom (called shoal) and miscellaneous waste. This means that the management of the shipping channel is regularly confronted with the heavy task of dredging. How do they make the wisest decisions with the best timing?

“The dilemma involves weighing the factors for the optimal decision of dredging and channel disposal activities,” said Zheyong Bian, assistant professor of construction management at the University of Houston College of Technology and lead author of a study published in the journal. Transportation Research Part E: Review of Logistics and Transportation. “Some factors are static, such as geographical characteristics of shipping channels and confined disposal facilities. Others vary widely, such as deteriorating seaworthiness (shoaling), traffic, economic values, annual budget, etc

Bian, then a doctoral student at Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey, collaborated with project manager Yun Bai of the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) at Rutgers, to develop a model for optimizing dredging planning (DPOM) and a dynamic priority planning algorithm (DPP) that takes into account known variables, such as the volume of debris expected and the availability of nearby confined disposal facilities. It also considers the grouping of project phases and how costs may be affected by interest rates and inflation.

But – this is a key advantage, Bian pointed out – the algorithm also offers the flexibility that weighs on the contributions of local professionals. In other words, he values ​​opinions on the ground and learns from experience.

Once all the factors are included, the algorithm suggests timing, prioritization and grouping of projects. It also projects the costs, including interest and inflation, as well as the sums likely to be recovered (through the reallocation of sand, for example).

In these times of budgetary restrictions, public funds are deployed with ever greater care. The new DPOM model and DPP algorithm could boost the profitability of shipping channels around the world. The New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Office of Marine Resources provided funds and data to support this study.

About the University of Houston

The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier 1 public research university recognized by a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter for excellence in undergraduate teaching. UH serves the competitive Houston and Gulf Coast region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning, and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation’s fourth-largest city and one of the nation’s most ethnically and culturally diverse regions, UH is a federally-designated Hispanic and Asian American institution with a staff of over of 47,000 students.


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