This paper deals with a vehicle routing problem with split demands, namely the problem of determining a flight schedule for helicopters to off-shore platform locations for exchanging crew people employed on these platforms. The problem is formulated as an LP model and solved by means of a column-generation technique including solving TSP problems. Since the final solution needs to be integral, we have chosen a rounding procedure to obtain an integer solution. Since the LP approach needs a considerable amount of computer time, it is only suitable for long-term planning practices. For the usual short-term planning, we have designed the so-called Cluster-and-Route Heuristic together with a number of improvement heuristics. The Cluster-and-Route procedure constructs a suitable clustering of the platforms and simultaneously forms the routes of the helicopter flights associated with the clusters. This approach is different from the usual heuristics, in which the clusters are constructed first, and the routes for each cluster are made afterwards. Simulations with various data sets show that the new heuristic outperforms the usual heuristics for vehicle routing problems. Even better results are obtained when improvement heuristics are applied. We use four improvement heuristics, including, so-called 1-opt and 2-opt procedures.
off-shore transportation, vehicle routing problem with split demands, traveling salesman problem, column generation, knapsack problem