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Centre for Operational Excellence (COPE)
Faculty of Economics and Business
Centre for Operational Excellence (COPE) Projects Havens in Physical Internet

Program Workshop Towards Virtual Ports in a Physical Internet

At the Online International Physical Internet Conference 2021

Livestream of the workshop also available at the ALICE platform

June 15, 14.45-17.00

Chair: Iris Vis

Chat-moderators: Inger Zeevalkink (digital platform IPIC21) and Ilse Attema (livestream youtube)

14.45 – 14.50 Opening of the Workshop

Iris Vis, University of Groningen

14.50 – 15.05 Physical Internet; innovations in the Netherlands

Albert Veenstra, TKI Dinalog


The Topsector Logistics has sponsored a number of physical internet related projects. The presentation will provide a brief overview of these projects and the way in which they have furthered the agenda of the physical internet paradigm.

Speaker info:

Albert Veenstra is Scientific Director of TKI Dinalog, and professor of Trade and Logistics at the Rotterdam School of Management. TKI Dinalog is the funding body for research of the Topsector Logistics. As scientific director, Albert is responsible for the research programme, the process for selection and monitoring of research projects and for the general management of the organisation TKI Dinalog. At the Rotterdam School of Management, Albert holds the position of academic director of the MSc in Customs and Supply Chain Compliance. He also teaches in various programs such as the MSc in Supply Chain Management, the MSc in Maritime Economics and Logistics and other post-experience programmes.

15.05 – 15.20 Ports in the Physical Internet: research summary

Lóri Tavasszy, Delft University of Technology and Iris Vis, University of Groningen


The NWO/TKI Dinalog project ‘Towards Virtual Ports in a Physical Internet’ develops models and tools which can support ports and businesses in their hinterlands to change over to and gradually participate in a complete Physical Internet network. In this present we present a research summary of the outcomes and insights obtained of the project that was performed by the University of Groningen, TU Delft, Port of Rotterdam and Groningen Seaports in the period 2016-2021.

Speaker info:

Lóránt (Lóri) Tavasszy is Full Professor in Freight Transportation and Logistics Systems at the Delft University of Technology. He graduated from TU Delft as Transportation Engineer. Until 2016 he was with the research institute TNO, and held visiting professor positions in Nijmegen and Delft. His main research topic is freight transportation modelling. He has written over 200 papers for journals, books and conferences and has extensive experience as principal investigator and policy advisor for developed and developing countries. He was short-term visiting professor at Central South University in Changsha in 2019. Prof. Tavasszy is international member of several Transportation Research Board committees, chairs the Scientific Committee of the World Conference for Transport Research Society and is vice chair of the Task Group on Sustainable Transport in ALICE. He is co-author of the recent ALICE publications Towards Zero Emission Logistics and Physical Internet Roadmap and is recipient of the 2019 IPIC/ALICE Physical Internet Builder Award.

Iris Vis is Dean of Industry Relations at the University of Groningen and professor of Industrial Engineering at the Faculty of Economics and Business of this university. She holds an M.Sc. in Mathematics (specialisation Operations Research) from the University of Leiden, and a Ph.D. from the Erasmus University Rotterdam. As Dean of Industry Relations she is responsible at a university level for initiating, building and maintaining long-term relations with companies, non-profit organizations and governmental organizations. Her research interests are in the design of planning and control concepts for (service) industry, logistics operations and transportation and port networks. She has performed numerous projects in cooperation with industry, resulting in a blend of rigorous academic work with practical applicability.

15.20 – 15.45 The evolution of ports in the Physical Internet

Patrick Fahim, Delft University of Technology

Michiel Nijdam, Port of Rotterdam


In the first part of the presentation the outcomes of various research projects will be shared on the position and role of maritime ports within the PI, as the transport hubs that facilitate most of the world’s international trade. We expand on the unique position of maritime ports in the PI and the respective challenges this may create. Finally, we present the requirements and policy directions for maritime ports to be ready to take up their role in the PI.

It is expected that PI will also greatly influence the role of ports in supply chains, but how exactly is still largely unknown. Based on the scenarios developed in the PI studies, it is explained in the second part of the presentation how the port of Rotterdam can form its own strategy to be prepared for a Physical internet and to position the port to remain competitive in the future.

Speaker information:

Patrick Fahim is PhD Candidate at the section of Transport & Logistics at the Delft University of Technology. In 2014, he graduated from the Delft University of Technology with a MSc degree in Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis and Management. After obtaining his MSc degree, for several years, he worked in industry at one of the globally leading logistics service providers. His PhD research aims to conceptualize the future roles of maritime ports in the Physical Internet, and investigates how to make the transition into self-regulating logistics systems by identifying future development paths.

Michiel Nijdam is Head of Strategy at the Port of Rotterdam. He is responsible for the ports corporate strategy and adviser to the board of directors on strategy and long term development. He leads a team of strategists and analysts and is member of the commercial leadership team. Until 2014 he was director and researcher at the Erasmus University Rotterdam institute for Port and Transport Economics. He is experienced in the maritime, port and transport industry as a project manager for economic evaluation, strategic planning and policy development. In 2010 Michiel earned a PhD degree with a thesis on leader firms and innovation in the port and maritime industry.

15.45 – 16.00 Break

16.00 – 16.15 Effective decision-making in Physical Internet Hinterland networks

Kees Jan Roodbergen and Gerlach van der Heide, University of Groningen


The hub network of the Physical Internet opens up various new opportunities for companies that need to ship from a port to locations in the hinterland. This presentation summarizes the main findings for a postdoctoral research project on decision-making in Physical Internet networks. First, an interesting opportunity is discussed for quicker demand fulfilment by dynamically making use of available inventory in the various warehouses in the network. Second, the impact of network structure and usage of edges is discussed, showing in which situations it is important to have flexible networks. Finally, for transport companies making use of multiple modalities, a simple Physical Internet-based solution is shown to provide most of the gains of a fully collaborative solution.

Speaker info

Before becoming a software engineer at CGI, Gerlach van der Heide has been researcher at the University of Groningen in the field Operations Research. After obtaining his Ph.D. degree on inventory control for multi-location rental systems, he has been involved as postdoctoral researcher in the NWO project “Towards Virtual Ports in a Physical Internet”, studying transportation of inventory through Physical Internet networks.

Kees Jan Roodbergen is professor of Quantitative Logistics at the University of Groningen, and Director of the Center for Operational Excellence (University of Groningen). He has applied various techniques from the field of Operations Research in practice. Roodbergen serves on the Scientific Advisory Council of the World Food Logistics Organization, and previously served as member for international affairs on the College-Industry Council on Material Handling Education in the USA.

16.15 – 16.20 Stakeholder roles in a Physical Internet

Paul Buijs


From 2016-2021, the University of Groningen and TU Delft, in collaboration with the Port of Rotterdam and Groningen Seaports, studied the changing roles of ports and actors in their hinterlands as the global logistics system transitions into a Physical Internet. At the outset of the study, the expectation was that many things will change for stakeholders in the system. But what exactly, and how do the stakeholders view this themselves? This presentation provides a brief overview of the look ahead into that logistics system of the future with several stakeholders.

Speaker info

Paul Buijs is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Operations at the University of Groningen. His primary research interests are in sustainable logistics, including topics such as collaboration in distribution networks, sustainable innovation, and alternative fuel transportation systems. Most of his research projects are formulated and executed in close collaboration with partners from industry and the public sector.

16.20 – 16.35 The Physical Internet: a new grand challenge for customs authorities?

Niek Hacquebord, University of Groningen|Newcastle University

Winfred Kooij and Stef Pastoor, Customs Administration of the Netherlands


The aim of the study that was carried out was to explore how the PI might impact the operations of customs authorities and to identify requirements to the PI from the perspective of the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. Based on those requirements, a first conceptual system design for Dutch Customs was developed to deal with the expected impacts of the PI. The findings of the study indicate that customs authorities currently have a very limited set of information available to base their risk assessments on, even though the risk assessment process is crucial for the enforcement of the security and safety of border-crossing goods flows. Dutch Customs needs more data and information that is of higher quality and received at an earlier stage in the logistics chain. The data pipeline concept was identified as being able to fulfil Dutch Customs’ needs, to increase the quality of risks assessments and thereby eliminate the number of unnecessary interventions that disrupt logistical flows.

Speaker info

Niek Hacquebord started his BSc Business Administration at the University of Groningen in 2015, which he finished in 2018 after a semester abroad at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. After finishing his BSc, he worked as a short-term planner in the Supply Chain planning department at Unilever Benelux in Rotterdam before starting his MSc programme in September 2019. After semesters in Newcastle and Groningen, Niek graduated in January 2021 for the Operations Management Dual Award programme, a collaboration between University of Groningen and Newcastle University in which he obtained two MSc degrees (MSc Technology Operations Management and MSc Operations and Supply Chain Management, respectively). As part of this programme, Niek wrote his MSc thesis titled: “The Physical Internet: a new grand challenge for customs authorities?”. To that end, he has been working at the Dutch Customs Authority as a research intern from July 2020 until January 2021. Niek’s thesis was received well with Dutch Customs as well as the broader customs and PI communities and was awarded a 9/10 by his university supervisors. Niek is currently employed as Trainee Supply Chain & Operations with Royal FrieslandCampina, where he is leading continuous improvement initiatives in the warehouse of one of the cheese production locations.

Winfred Kooij started his working career in the police force in 1983 until 1999. After 16 years of Police, he then switched to the FIOD (Investigation Service for the Tax and Customs Administration) as head of a knowledge group for Intellectual Property Rights. In 2007 he was asked to come and work at Customs. He have held various positions within Customs at management and policy level since 2007. At the moment he is project manager for Customs and member of the national coordination Group Innovation, theme holder Physical Internet and Internet of Things.

16.35 – 16.50 Hydrogen supply chain management: what can be learned from PI concepts

Henk Zwetsloot, Groningen Seaports


The North of the Netherlands is front runner in developing a hydrogen economy. Groningen Seaports is in the centre of developing the new hydrogen supply chain. Hydrogen logistics has many similarities with cargo logistics and hence physical internet. For instance the need for digital platforms for booking and trade. What can be learned from PI concepts and where is the comparison wrong.

Speaker info:

Henk Zwetsloot works for Groningen Seaports since 2015, as CIO and manager digital innovation. Current projects are developing a digital market place for hydrogen, smart shipping, data driven operations and Internet of Things. Previously he was dean of the faculty of Computer Science and sensor technology at the Hanze University of applied sciences in Groningen. Henk obtained his master's degree at Wageningen University and Research.

16.50 – 17.00 Discussion and Closure

Iris Vis

Last modified:03 June 2021 5.29 p.m.
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