Home Industry Development NICTA student developed software drives up port cargo movements

NICTA student developed software drives up port cargo movements

Software developed by a NICTA sponsored university student is part of an upgrade to the software that has helped set an all-time loading record at Australia’s largest shipping port at Port Hedland in the north of Western Australia.

PhD student, Elena Kelareva, who won the NASSCOM Innovation Student Award which was presented at the ICT Celebration Dinner at CeBIT in Sydney last night, developed the software at the Australian maritime engineering company, OMC International, while a NICTA sponsored student at the Australian National University.

Kelareva first became interested in ship scheduling while doing a summer research project in artificial intelligence at NICTA during her undergraduate degree at the University of Melbourne.

OMC International has recently adopted the software – the DUKC Optimiser tool -as an add-on to its Dynamic Under-Keel Clearance DUKC software – and it is now being used by the Port Hedland Port Authority.

“In June last year, six ships leaving Port Hedland under DUKC set a new port loading record when they carried a combined total cargo of more than a million tonnes of iron ore on the one tide,” Peter O’Brien, CEO, OMC International, said.

“We are looking forward to enhancing the DUKC with the DUKC Optimiser over the next months which is currently being trialled and which will assist the Port further optimise the increasing volumes and sizes of vessels through the Port channels.”

O’Brien says the DUKC Optimiser automates the process of determining sailing times of ships through the port so as to maximise the amount of cargo ships can safely carry, taking into account factors like tide, waves and currents.

“This process is usually done manually, with variable results. An automated scheduling system can find better solutions which allow more cargo to be loaded onto the same set of ships, or more ships to sail on each high tide.”

O’Brien said the DUCK Optimiser used the cutting-edge G12 optimisation platform developed by NICTA.

 “When an opportunity for a scheduling project came up in my work at OMC, I jumped at the chance. Many cargo ports could improve their capacity by improving the efficiency of their scheduling,” Kelareva said.

Kelareva’s PhD supervisors are all researchers in NICTA’s Optimisation Research Group and include Dr Phil Kilby, a Principal Researcher and joint winner of the ICT category of The Australian’s Innovation Challenge in 2011, Prof Sylvie Thiébaux, a Professor at The Australian National University and NICTA Project Leader, and Prof Mark Wallace who is CEO of the NICTA startup Opturion which commercialises the G12 platform.

“Elena is surrounded by leading constraint programmers, and has direct access to leading edge research taken straight from the lab and put to work on a real world problem,” said Dr Kilby.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).