Framework for Discussing Sustainability Improvement in Container Ports – a Nordic Case Study
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This PhD research project proposes a five-construct framework for discussing how to improve the sustainability performance in Nordic container ports (NCPs). The port of Narvik is used as a representative case study whenever judged pertinent. Sustainability is approached through the definition of sustainable development given in The Brundtland Report (1987) and operationalized through The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) approach proposed by Elkington (1997). This involves three dimensions: economic profitability, environment-friendliness, and social benefits. In the context of container ports generally, the importance of sustainability has amplified in recent decades as documented by the ever-increasing number of both sustainable port-related initiatives and published papers from the research community. The Nordic region is characterized by its harsh yet vulnerable environment (arctic and sub-arctic climate), and by its strong social standard. Furthermore, in the coming years freight congestion worldwide is to be expected, which calls for the efficiency of container terminal operations and potential new freight corridors some of which are projected to pass through the Nordic region (e.g. The Northern East-West (N.E.W.) corridor). These economic and environmental reasons constitute the rationale behind pursuing research on NCPs. This PhD thesis focuses more on the economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability. In developing the proposed five-construct framework, both qualitative and quantitative methods were applied and two research paths were undertaken. First, to evaluate the impact of operations research, especially optimization, on the sustainability of Nordic container terminal operations. Second, to investigate the role of innovation through four constructs seeking to improve NCP sustainability: Sustainability performance monitoring, flexibility relationship to sustainability, adaptability of principles from other fields, e.g. lean construction principles, to the sustainability of NCP maritime clusters, and enhancing the visibility and traceability of NCP operations and business processes. The contributions of this PhD project are summarized as follows: 1. Suggestion of a five-construct framework discussing how to improve the NCP sustainability. These constructs are optimization, sustainability performance monitoring, flexibility, adaptability, and visibility and traceability; 2. Proposal of a framework dedicated to monitoring the NCP sustainability performance using artificial intelligence and the implementation of a prototype covering the sustainability’s economic, environmental and social dimensions; 3. Development of a user-friendly optimization tool using artificial intelligence to optimize quay crane scheduling problem with non-interference constraints adapted to the NCP scale; hence contributing to the field of small-scale discrete optimization problems. Further, this has a positive impact especially on the economic and environmental aspects of NCP sustainability; 4. Presentation and analysis of main RFID configurations in world leading container ports and conduction of a feasibility study to decide upon the most appropriate RFID implementation in a typical NCP; 5. Establishment of flexibility as an enabler of sustainability in the context of container ports. Several areas of further research are identified. One area is related to implementing the new approach presented in this PhD project into NCPs for instance, by fully deploying the sustainability performance monitoring and RFID technology. Another area is to further develop and improve the proposed five-construct framework by fine tuning it. This can be achieved for instance by performing a multiple case study research for the adaptability of lean construction principles, by adding (/removing) relevant (respectively obsolete) constructs and by extending the framework to fully cover both container port clusters and supply chains.