AI Success Stories

HATCL Logo HACTL: Air Cargo Handling

hactl - air cargo handling system

Project Summary:

  • customer:  Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited
  • application:  air cargo terminal resource allocation
  • AI technology:  search algorithms, constraint programming


Enterprise resource optimization software helps an organization work productively in unison. We provided consultancy and technology-transfer services to help HACTL develop its next generation resource optimization system for SuperTerminal 1 at the new Chek Lap Kok International Airport.

The final system represented over 50 person-years of development effort and is one of the most sophisticated optimisation systems in Asia-Pacific.

Our Client

Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited (HACTL) is one of the busiest air cargo handlers in the world. It processed over 1.29 million tones of air cargo in 1994, representing a total value of over US$57 Billion, and with an average compound growth of 11% per year.

Business Needs

In 1995, HACTL started to investigate how the next generation resource allocation system should be designed and built to support its huge new air cargo handling facility, Super Terminal 1 at the new Chek Lap Kok International Airport.

Given the projected volume of air cargo to go through the new facilities, optimizing the utilization of various resources in the Super Terminal 1 becomes much more important than at the Kai Tak Airport. The new SuperTerminal 1 was designed to handle 2.6 million tones of air cargo yearly, which will meet the business needs in Hong Kong and Southern China well into the next decade. Therefore HACTL needed effective scheduling methodologies to support its new Super Terminal 1 operations.

AI Technology

Our scheduling methodology based on advanced constraint-programming and object technology. A prototype system was developed to demonstrate the feasibility of the methodology using a scaled-down version of the new Super Terminal 1. This prototype assigns resources such as conveyor belts, hoists, cranes, and decks to service containers of import and export flights. The system performs scheduling based upon expected number of containers and the resources required by each flight. This scheduling system also performs real-time reactive scheduling to accommodate changes in allotment and resource availability.

We also applied the proposed scheduling methodology to produce a design for a workspace and personnel scheduling system. The systems allocate suitable work areas for the build-up or the break-up of each container and a team of workers to perform these tasks based on operational constraints and criteria.

Business Benefits

The scheduling methodology was transferred to HACTL and development of the final resource scheduling system was brought in-house. The resulting system is now in production and represents over 50 person-years of development effort.

More Info:

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