Container Ports cover the facilities where ships, sea transport vehicles can dock and connect to the docks or piers, or dock in water areas. A port can also be defined as a terminal or site that includes places where cargo is loaded onto ships or unloaded from ships, where ships are waiting for their turn, or where they are asked to wait or forced to wait. It is a restricted land and sea area with facilities for ship-to-shore, shore-to-ship and ship-to-ship cargo or people transportation, connecting, lifting or mooring ships, storing goods on land and at sea until delivery. It also provides integration between transportation modes having facilities for other forms of transportation (Deloitte Port Services – Smart Ports 2017).

Container ports also basically have two types of flow. These are the physical flow and the information flow. The purpose of the information flow is the realization of the entire bureaucratic flow of information about the ship and cargo. A physical flow is a flow that involves the handling of cargo in a port or terminal. These two basic flows mentioned are realized with three different subsystems at the ports. These are the transfer of information and cargo from ship to land, the transfer of information and cargo from land to ship, and finally the transfer of information and cargo from ship to ship.

Sea transportation, due to its reliability, carrying capacity and cost advantages, serves more than 80% of the imported and exported cargoes of world trade as the most preferred form of transportation. There is a lot of competition between port enterprises, the number of which reaches 250 worldwide (Sirimanne et al. 2019). The effective operation of the global supply chain and Turkish ports located at a critical sea transportation point is of critical importance for the port region and the Turkish economy. The most important criteria for taking part in maritime transport, the share of which is very high in the world economy, are the service, location and container handling capacities of ports. In this context, factors such as effective use of available capacity, use of port-appropriate equipment, planning of container placement area, deployment in accordance with geographical location come to the fore in the management of ports.

Ports should be integrated with commercial, supply and logistics channels. In this sense, ports are the points where many members of the supply channel meet; this interaction is emphasized in Fig. 1. The port can be involved in all kinds of distribution activities that include the flow of finished products coming out of the production line to the consumer. This distribution can be directed to the wholesaler, retailer or end consumer, and at each stage, the port can be located within this structure. In addition to transportation in physical distribution, storage is also an important activity. Nowadays, ports have also become capable of providing storage services.

Fig. 1
figure 1

Location of the port within the physical distribution (Clott and Hartman 2016)

Port system analysis methods

Systems can be studied by two basic methods, which are: (1) Examination on the real system and (2) Methods of studying the system by modeling. Solving system problems by trial and error is not possible for every system. However, if there is no significant cost loss in stopping the operation of the system, a direct examination of the actual systems can be performed. But it is important to note that the study of physically real systems should not significantly affect the costs of operating the system. On the other hand, the modeling of the system for performance monitoring purposes is divided into two main parts as physical and mathematical models in itself. Simulators, dam models, wind tunnels are examples of physical models. Mathematical models, on the other hand, are models that use linear programming, have objective and constraint functions, and they are divided into analytical models and simulation models in themselves.

Analytical solution uses solution methods such as linear programming, optimization model within the scope of operations research. Simulation, on the other hand, includes performance measurement models that measure the performance of the system. We cannot say that the results obtained from the simulation model are optimal, because by changing the parameters related to the system, the system performance is measured, and all system-related possibilities can be examined. In other words, simulation is not a tool that directly optimizes the system, but a tool that tries to optimize and find the system.

Port managers strive to make the lower and upper structures of the port optimal for ship operations, loading and unloading, temporary storage and in-port operations. For all these reasons, it has become a necessity for port or terminal managers to measure their performance to determine performance targets and achieve these targets.

The criteria for measuring the operational performance at ports are as shown in Fig. 2. These criteria are the main performance indicators adopted for ship-dock operations in all types of ports.

Fig. 2
figure 2

Basic ship—dock performance indicators in ports

Based on the descriptions mentioned in Fig. 2, the following basic operational performance indicators can be identified:

  • Time spent by the ship in the port = The time between the arrival and decommissioning of the ship in the port (7–1)

  • Total time that the ship has been decommissioned = The time between the pilot’s arrival on the ship and the ship’s departure from the port to dock the ship (7–2)

  • Time spent by the ship at the dock = The time between the ship’s berth and decommissioning (6- 3)

  • Loading time = The time between the start and end of loading/unloading operations (5–4)

Basic logistics functions at ports

There are basically three logistics functions in container terminals; these are the transportation of the container, its storage, and the handling of the container along with the cargo inside the container. The mentioned basic logistics functions are presented below:

Transportation function: three types of transportation modes carry out Arrival/departure of containers to the terminal area: sea, iron and road. Freight coming/going from the Sea railway is transferred by main and feeder lines. In general, seaway services are carried out periodically, and the volume of cargo they carry is much larger than in other modes. That is why the planning of sea transportation is a necessity. In the same way, rail transportation has less capacity than by sea, but more capacity than by road. It is also necessary to plan the rail transportation, which is carried out periodically. Road transport is a mode of transport that serves an individual cargo. Road transport has an irregular service structure, and there is no need for additional planning during loading/unloading hours. In particular, sea and rail transportation must be carried out within a certain period, and this period must be as short as possible. In addition to all, there is transportation activity within the port in accordance with the need to transport cargo within the port area.

Storage function: Time limits and irregularities in the modes of transport used in container terminals have led to the need to store cargo in container terminals. This situation coincides with inventory management in the logistics sense. It is very rare in practice that the container is loaded onto the ship by entering the port area directly or that the container evacuated from the ship is directed directly to the exit door. Ensuring the compatibility of all modes with each other and the departure of the container from the terminal site as soon as possible is the main goal of each container terminal operator. However, if there is not enough backfield, the cargo remaining in the port is reflected as successor income to the port. On the other hand, if the port provides logistics services, the cargo should not stay at the port site for longer periods. In general, in a technical term, it is necessary that the container’s occupation rate (dwell time) at the site remains at the lowest possible level. Terminal sites are stacked on the site according to the characteristics of the container, taking into account the separation of export/import/empty/transit cargo. The fact that the port serves mostly import/export or transit cargo directly affects the terminal design.

Cargo handling function: Basically, the handling service provided at ports involves the transfer of cargo from ship to port, from port to ship, from port to land or from land to port. In addition, the handling of cargo in a container is a service performed at container freight stations (CFS) located at the terminal site. Accordingly, the loads are stacked in the container with the help of forklifts at the CFS site, or the loads in the evacuated containers are again unloaded at the CFS. The CFS service has started to be abandoned today, especially in terminals serving a significant amount of cargo. Terminals do not want to allocate their limited areas to CFS operations with relatively little revenue. Especially in the world’s leading container ports such as Hamburg and Rotterdam, the CFS function is performed in logistics centers outside the port area. In addition, the cargo handling function plays an active role in the loading /unloading of cargo on the ship and its storage at the landfill.

Port operations and operation areas

Container ports consist of three main parts: ship loading and unloading areas, decommissioning areas and rear-internal stock areas. Coastal cranes are used for loading and unloading containers on board, and effective coastal crane scheduling is required for activities in this area. Various transfer vehicles are used to transport containers from the ship loading and unloading area to the stock area, and vehicle assignment and routing problems need to be solved effectively for activities in this area. Field cranes are used for handling such as transportation, storage and control of material activities in the inventory area and effective field crane scheduling is required to minimize time losses in the inventory area. Figure 3 shows the loading and unloading operations of ships at container terminals. Berth cranes are available at the ship loading and unloading sites and perform the operations of loading and unloading containers on board. The dock crane takes the container from the top of the ship and places it in the transport vehicles to take it to the stock areas, or it loads the container that comes from the stock area by the transport vehicle to the ship for transportation by ship. Multiple cranes at one berth can simultaneously carry out loading and unloading operations for a ship simultaneously. Operations in the field of stocking are more flexible than in the dock crane. Although field cranes, two-legged carriers and loaders are used in the stocking area, field cranes are widely used.

Fig. 3
figure 3

Container port operations and operation areas (Vis and Koster 2003)

Stacking in ports is the most commonly used stocking method, and containers can be stacked up to 7 times in the stock area with the help of field cranes. The port stock area consists of classified hoarding blocks including export, import and empty containers. The area between the ship loading and decommissioning site and the stock area is the transport area and includes transport operations between the two specified areas. The vehicles used at the transport site are divided into two groups. The first of these are vehicles that are called passive and are not able to move containers in a vertical direction. There are single-trailer and multi-trailer vehicles in this group. The transportation vehicles that can move containers in both vertical and horizontal directions are large wheeled trucks, forklifts and stacking vehicles. Large wheeled trucks are the most important among them. Because these vehicles are capable of not only transporting containers, but also doing stacking work in the field. Vehicle traffic at the transport site should be well managed, as the effective use of the transport site affects the ship’s stay at the dock.

How the Port Works can be sorted into steps as follows:

  1. 1.

    When the ship arrives at the port, the coastal cranes unload the containers.

  2. 2.

    These operations include the transportation of the container between the dock and the decommissioning site and the handling of the container within the scope of storage activities. Double-sided stacking and transportation vehicles (straddle carrier) stack loads by moving them to the transport area or the rear storage area

  3. 3.

    They are transported by container to the nearest gate of the port for shipment to their destination.

  4. 4.

    They are loaded and transported to external transportation vehicles and railway transportation systems throughout the country to be sent to non-local customers.

  5. 5.

    Containers are transported by trucks to be sent to regional distribution warehouses, Grocery stores/stores or factories. A summary of port operations are shown in Fig. 4.

Many authors have considered the processes in container terminals from different angles. The container terminal system consists of three main subsystems: the door, the container storage area and the dock. The main operations of container terminals are the loading, unloading, delivery and distribution operations that ensure the flow of containers in these three main subsystems mentioned. In addition, it is possible to divide container-handling operations into sea and land operations within the port.

Seaward operations: It includes container handling between the ship at the dock and the apron (the ship’s decommissioning part of the port at sea). In addition, the lowering of the ship’s hatch covers the apron and the handling to reach the container at the destination are within the scope of seaward operations. In this type of handling, a dock crane is usually used, but in practice, especially in small terminals, the ship’s own cranes and mobile cranes can be used in dock operations. Land-based operations: It is basically a continuation of seaside operations. These operations include the transportation of the container between the dock and the decommissioning site and the handling of the container within the scope of storage activities.

These operations include the receipt of the container by the carrier or the delivery of the cargo to the receiving party. The container models used in the ports are shown in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5
figure 5

Container models and equipment

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