Improving Customer Satisfaction and Reducing Environmental Impact with More Efficient Cargo Loading Plans

TOKYO—Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL; President & CEO: Takeshi Hashimoto) and its group company MOL Information Systems, Ltd. (President: Tsuyoshi Yoshida; Headquarters: Minato-ku, Tokyo) today announced the launch of full-scale operation and practical application of their advanced car carrier cargo loading plan generation system using mathematical optimization (Note 1), a technology both companies have been working on since 2019.

MOL operates world’s largest car carrier fleets, with about 100 vessels. Car carriers today require much more complicated cargo loading (Note 2) plans than in the past, reflecting changing transport needs, evolving logistics patterns, and more diversity in both production centers and markets for automobiles. As a result, generation of loading plans has become much more time-consuming.

Working closely with Professor Shunji Umetani (Note 3) of Osaka University, MOL has developed (1)an algorithm that derives the optimal “car carrier allocation plan” (Note 4) from among enormous combinations in a short time, and (2)a system that swiftly generates a cargo loading plan, maximizing both efficiency and cargo safety. (Note 5)

Adoption of the new system(2) reduces the time required to generate the loading plan by about 40%. It leads not only to prompt decision making using innovative, cutting-edge technology, but also eliminates dependency on individual skills. MOL expects it to speed up response to customers and help attract new customers. Improved cargo handling efficiency also helps reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in car carrier operations.

In addition to the (1) and (2) projects, MOL has launched a study to use mathematical optimization for space management operation (Note 6), moving ahead to further enhance efficiency in its car carrier business.

MOL was designated as a “Digital Transformation (DX) Certified Business Operator” based on the “DX Certification” established by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. (Note 7) It continually improves transport service quality and reduces GHG emissions by forging ahead with DX in a proactive manner, with the aim of becoming the customer’s first choice as a logistics business partner.

(Note 1) Mathematical optimization

An underlying technology of artificial intelligence (AI) and a method for decision-making and problem-solving. Mathematical optimization finds an answer that minimizes (or maximizes) objective functions under given constraints and conditions. It is used in a broad range of areas such as investment management, logistics and supply chain management, energy management, and scheduling.

(Note 2) Loading cargo

Please refer to the MOL Official Channel on YouTube:

FLEXIE Series (Loading Operation)

(Note 3) Shunji Umetani, Endowed Chair Professor in the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology

Acquired Ph. D (Informatics), Department of Applied Mathematics and Physics, Graduate School of Informatics, Kyoto University in 2003, and from 2008 belonged to Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, Osaka University and currently served as Endowed Chair Professor.

His focus is on combinatorial optimization. He is engaged in development of algorithms that efficiently find practical solutions for problems of large-scale and diversified combination based on large-scale data collected from the real world. He is also actively working to develop real applications using mathematical optimization through industry-academia collaboration.

(Note 4) Please refer to the May 28, 2021, press release:
MOL accelerates Digital Transformation by introducing Support System for Car Carrier Allocation Planning

(Note 5) Please refer to the September 30, 2019, press release:
MOL Group Successfully Develops Car Carrier Allocation/Loading Plan with Fundamental technologies of AI – Significantly Improving Efficiency in Planning and Validation with ‘Mathematical Optimization’ –

(Note 6) Space management operation

Operation that controls cargo volume in consideration of factors such as the load assortment and operational schedule, to make the best use of the vessel’s available onboard space.

(Note 7) Please refer to the April 16, 2021, press release:
MOL Designated as ‘Digital Transformation Certified Business Operator’