The need for an automated scheduling solution in the cruise ferry space
Many industries face the challenge of determining flows in a supply chain network in order to meet customer demand at minimum cost. One of those industries is marine transportation where shipping companies (cruises/ferries) constantly struggle to make profits. Cruise/ferry companies can carry passengers (PAX) or freight (RORO) or both (RO-PAX). Their vessels can also carry wheeled cargo such as cars, trucks, or trailers.
The fleet size of ferry companies may change over time and the fleet may contain various types of vessels with varying capacities, cost structure, and other specific ferry characteristics. Though the structure and fleet of the cruise companies may differ considerably, they have one objective in common - to utilize their fleets optimally. Consequently, ferry companies have complex planning problems ranging from the strategic to tactical/operational levels. Some of the examples include accurately predicting the incoming demand, deciding the optimal size of the fleet, route selection, and finding the optimal route and schedule for a given vessel given the fleet.
Most of the cruise/ferry companies struggle with the ability to accurately predict demand, be it passengers or freight. This makes it difficult for them to plan in terms of the right size of ferry to be used on a route. Turning away demand causes revenue leakage and the risk of losing customers to competitors. It is extremely important for the cruise companies to use their fleet in the most efficient and effective manner on the designated routes. This involves optimal use of vessels on different routes based on the demand, time of departure and other operational constraints such as sailing time and crew availability.
Any cruise ferry involves major capital investments and the daily operational costs of the vessels run into thousands of dollars. This indicates that better utilization of the fleet can significantly improve the revenues while reducing the operational costs at the same time.
It is evident from the above that there is a considerable need for a decision support system in the schedule planning process and that cruise ferry operators can receive significant benefits from such a system. Revenue Technology Services (RTS) took heed of the problems that ferry companies face and felt the need for a strategic planning tool that would aid the companies overcome those challenges by developing RTS SchedOpt which caters to the need of the cruise companies and arm them with the visibility and convenience of better demand prediction and optimal scheduling of their fleet.
RTS SchedOpt uses sophisticated forecasting algorithm that allows customers to forecast the incoming demand at various levels such as port-to-port and at different times of the day. The forecasting module can be configured to suit the customers' needs. The solution uses mathematical optimization techniques to determine the optimal schedule for the fleet. Optimization tries to maximize the demand coverage by selecting the right vessel available at the port thus maximizing the revenue gains. The model considers various business constraints such as sailing time, vessel down time, and availability of the vessel at the port while optimally assigning the vessel. SchedOpt has an intuitive graphical display that allows the users to perform what- if analysis by changing the business constraints at different levels and view and compare the optimization results. The in-built reports provide customers foresight into various business aspects of the day-to-day operations such as vessel utilization, year over year demand projections and capacity and demand mismatches.