Smart and Sustainable Transport in Ports


As part of a large European project on sustainable ports, we offer a PhD position in smart and sustainable transport within ports. With the increasing awareness of climate change, industries are under more and more pressure to reduce their carbon footprint. One sector that contributes significantly to CO2 emission are international ports. In this project, we study ways to reduce the carbon footprint of one of the largest ports in the world. To do this, we study the implementation of electric, and potentially autonomous, transportation modes within the port. We will particularly focus on two modes of transport: 1) autonomous and electric barges for inter-terminal transportation, 2) green connected trucks. In two separate work packages, we study the challenges in the implementation of these green alternatives. In the third part of the research, we develop a simulation model combined with optimization that can determine the optimal use of the different modes of transportation.


Transport and Logistics, Supply Chain Management, Operations Management, Energy Transition, Multi-modal Transportation, Ports


This PhD project is part of a large European project on sustainable ports. Within this MAGPIE project, a consortium consisting of 4 ports (Rotterdam, DeltaPort (inland), Sines and HAROPA), 9 research institutes and universities, 32 private companies and 4 other institutes, forms a unique collaboration addressing the missing link between green energy supply and green energy use in port-related transport and the implementation of digitalization, automation, and autonomy to increase transport efficiency. This project accelerates the introduction of green energy carriers combined with realization of and logistic optimization in ports through automation and autonomous operations. A living lab approach is applied in which technological and nontechnological innovations are developed or demonstrated. All results feed into the Master Plan for the future European green port, aiming at full decarbonization by 2050 by providing solutions that can be implemented immediately to make significant steps in decarbonization already by 2030.

Within this MAGPIE project, this PhD project focusses on smart and green logistics within the port. The research has three main components: 1) the development of planning and execution concepts for autonomous and electric barges for inter-terminal transportation, 2) the demonstration of the use of electric driving with heavy duty trucks, 3) the development of an integrated DSS to optimize the mode choice within the port.

1.   Autonomous barge

This research aims at the development of collaborative planning and execution concepts for autonomous electric barge to coordinate (1) terminal approach - last mile; (2) kiss-and-ride transshipment; and (3) terminal operations. The terminal approach includes navigational aspects of waiting areas for autonomous barges, while considering the design of the barge. Transshipment involves Kiss&Ride or Touch&Go Ship concepts where the final approach to and departure from the berth is synchronized with terminal planning and execution.

2.  Green connected trucking

The main goal in this part of the project is to demonstrate the use of three different logistical concepts to make freight transportation by road to and from the port more sustainable: (1) electric driving with heavy duty trucks (battery-electric and hydrogen) in combination with (2) the use of a decoupling point in the port area and supported by (3) automated docking for recharging of unmanned electric trucks. The research will show how these concepts and technologies can be applied in the best possible way to reduce emissions and improve efficiency and reliability of freight transport by road.

3.  Green logistics DSS

This task will deliver an integrated DSS that enables the port to deploy and manage their operations in a more efficient, reliable, environmentally sustainable, and less energy consuming manner. Based on a synchro-modality concept, discrete event simulation, in combination with optimization, will be used at the tactical and operational levels, to evaluate and optimize design decisions and operations planning and scheduling. Sustainability, energy efficiency, CO2 emissions, as well as other environmental impacts (noise and atmospheric pollution), and renewable and green energies usage will be the main objectives for the DSS.


This project develops and uses quantitative research methods based on operations research, econometrics, and machine learning to optimize the transportation within ports. This can include Linear Programming, Simulation, and Queueing theory.

In the project, we collaborate with multiple industry partners and knowledge institutes in the consortium. We expect that there will be extensive collaborations with TNO and the RSM-Business Information Management group, both of which being in the same work packages. Furthermore, to strengthen your international profile, we strongly encourage our Ph.D. students to go abroad for a research visit during their third or fourth year at one of the top universities for 3 to 6 months.

As a PhD student, you will gain the training and experience necessary to conduct independent research through course work in information systems, economics, econometrics, machine learning, optimization, and large-scale data analytics. You will work closely with the advisors to define, develop, and execute your own research. The PhD dissertation will be defined by the student with inputs from the advisors, and thus requires creativity, self-direction, and a passion for scientific inquiry.

Required profile

  • The candidates should have an interest in the challenges faced by logistical companies in their transition towards a more sustainable operation. He or she should have a quantitative orientation towards problem solving. The candidate should also be open to collaborating with the industry partners within the project;
  • Preferred background: MSc. in Operations Research, Applied Mathematics, Industrial Engineering, Supply Chain Management, Econometrics, Computer Science or Business Analytics;
  • Excellent study record;
  • Programming experience;
  • International orientation and the capacity to speak and write in English fluently;
  • Commitment and drive to execute excellent PhD Research.

All application documents required by ERIM can be found here:

Below are the test scores required by ERIM:

- GMAT/GRE scores above the 85th percentile, not older than 5 years

- IELTS/TOEFL test scores, not older than 2 years:

  IELTS: minimum overall band score 7.5; no section score lower than 6.5

  Internet-based TOEFL: minimum total score 100, no section score lower than 23

  Paper-based TOEFL: minimum score 600

Expected output

  • The project aims to publish the results of the research in the top journals in operations management, transportation, and logistics.
  • In the project, we collaborate with multiple industry partners within the port of Rotterdam. The aim is to contribute to the actual implementation of the logistics concepts for green and autonomous barges and trucks within the port.
  • We will present the results at national and international conferences.


This PhD project is carried out within the Technology and Operations Management department of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). As a PhD student at RSM, you will also be part of the doctoral programme in Business and Management offed by the Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM).  

The department of Technology and Operations Management combines scientific ambition and rigor with practical relevance. The focus of our research and education is to understand and improve the design, manufacturing, and distribution of products and services in a digitizing world. Our engaged scholars develop scientific knowledge and prepare students, academics, and business people to be critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and practitioners.

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers.

The Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM) is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE). The research undertaken by ERIM is focused on management of the firm in its environment, its intra- and interfirm relations, business processes, strategies, finances, consumers, markets and their interdependent connections. Since its founding in 1999, the objective of ERIM is to carry out first-rate research in management and to offer an advanced doctoral programme in Business and Management.

The Erasmus Doctoral Programme in Business and Management is a highly advanced international programme designed to train future researchers. The English-taught programme includes systematic coaching and academic and personal development from leading academics. Within ERIM, over 350 senior researchers and PhD candidates are active in five research programmes, spanning all areas of management research. From a variety of academic backgrounds and expertise, the ERIM Community is united in striving for excellence and working at the forefront of creating new business knowledge.

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Employment conditions

ERIM offers fully-funded and salaried PhD positions, which means that accepted PhD candidates become employees (promovendi) of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO).

Contact Information

Interested candidates are invited to visit the ERIM PhD in Management website ( for information about application procedures and criteria. The application deadline is 1 December 2021. We encourage applicants to submit as early as possible as we will evaluate applications as they come in.

If you have any questions about the formal admission requirements, please contact the ERIM doctoral office: or contact Dr. Pieter van den Berg (

Erasmus Research Institute of Management

ERIM is the research institute of management at Erasmus University Rotterdam, founded by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and Erasmus School of Economics (ESE), both of which excel in their research and teaching programmes. The level and international character of their research and teaching programmes has put both schools at the forefront of academic excellence. They offer a diversified portfolio of accredited teaching and research programmes, ranging from pre-experience MSc to postgraduate Masters and executive development, and from fundamental research to applied research and business support, which are renowned throughout the world. RSM is one of the few schools worldwide that holds a triple accreditation from the AMBAs, EQUIS and the AASCB, and is positioned among the top European business schools. The scientific staff of both schools plays a major role in the schools’ interaction with the international business community.

ERIM distinguishes itself by the high-level and international character of its research and has repeatedly been ranked among top 3 research institutes in Europe. ERIM’s key aims are top-quality academic research with impact both on academia and managerial practice, and the advancement of international academic careers and high-level support for both research and doctoral education. For more information about ERIM please visit [link:].