A typical problem encountered in discharging materials like coal, ore, and so forth from ships is the sequencing of the holds to be discharged and the associated arrangement of the ship unloaders, conveyors and stackers so that the materials can be unloaded to the assigned yard within a satisfactory time. This is actually a combinatorial problem. An idea of transforming the working rules of a port to a heuristic evaluation function is proposed. At each stage of discharging, the constraints and limitations of a port and its equipment are verified to generate a set of feasible flow-paths. Each flow-path is then assessed by the evaluation function, and the best one is selected for operation until the next stage where the same process is repeated. This hill climbing strategy is applied successfully to the material docks of the China Steel Corporation. Although the explanation is confined to China Steel, the idea can nevertheless be applied to other docks of similar operations.
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