Maritime Economics & Logistics

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 61–77 | Cite as

Flow balancing-based empty container repositioning in typical shipping service routes

  • Dong-ping SongEmail author
  • Jing-xin DongEmail author
Original Article


This article formulates the empty container repositioning problem for general shipping service routes based on container flow balancing. Two types of flow balancing mechanisms are analysed. The first is based on point-to-point balancing, which leads to a point-to-point repositioning policy. The second is based on coordinated balancing in the whole service, which leads to a coordinated repositioning policy. A simple heuristic algorithm is presented to solve the coordinated balancing problem which aims to minimize total empty container repositioning costs. The above two repositioning policies are then applied to a range of shipping services, representing typical route structures in existing shipping networks. The relative performances of these two policies and their sensitivity to route structure and trade demand are examined in both deterministic and stochastic situations. Managerial insights are subsequently derived.


container shipping empty container repositioning flow balancing liner shipping route structure 



This work is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) (grant number EP/E000398/1).


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Shipping & Logistics Group, Business School, University of Plymouth, Cookworthy Building, Drake CircusPlymouthUK

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