PhD Position Big Data Analytics and AI in Port Performance Optimization – Infrastructure State – Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) – Delft

  • Delft

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

Ports serve as critical nodes in the global logistics network, acting as key facilitators of international trade and commerce. They play an important role in connecting nations, enabling the smooth flow of imports and exports, and contributing significantly to economic development. Efficient port operations not only reduce transportation costs but also enhance supply chain reliability, fostering economic growth and prosperity. The infrastructure of ports, including breakwaters, access channels, turning circles, harbor basins, terminals, quay walls, equipment, and physical environmental aspects like bed levels, water levels, currents, waves, and wind, profoundly influence the way ports operate. Recognizing the interplay between infrastructure, the physical environment, and efficiency is crucial for optimizing port performance.

In pursuit of advancing the efficiency of port operations, a strategic collaboration has been established through a Data-sharing and support agreement between the Port of Rotterdam and the group “Ports and Waterways” at TU Delft. This partnership aims to leverage the wealth of data available, encompassing geospatial information, vessel data, and environmental data, together with satellite imagery and various other open sources of information. Under this collaborative agreement, the Port and Waterways AI research program has been initiated. Financed by the Port of Rotterdam, the primary goal is to unlock the full potential of available data sources and advances in Artificial Intelligence techniques to enhance port performance.

Within the Port and Waterways AI research program, three distinct positions have been defined. The first PhD position (this vacancy) focuses on the Infrastructure State, assessing the strategic aspects of port infrastructure, while the second PhD position delves into Infrastructure Use and operational dynamics. Simultaneously, a postdoctoral position is dedicated to developing a new working environment, including setting up skill beds for testing and refining novel models and methods.

As a PhD candidate in Infrastructure State, you will play an important role in exploring the strategic dimensions of port infrastructure through the lens of data availability and advanced AI models. The core objective of this position is to identify added value for port applications at the strategic level. You will tackle a range of complex problems, with a primary focus on port accessibility and dredging strategies. This entails a nuanced examination of how maintaining different bed levels can impact port performance, optimize dredging costs, integrate with tidal windows, and adhere to priority rules to achieve a desired service level.

The scope of your PhD extends to critical areas such as asset management, infrastructure monitoring, predictive maintenance, infrastructure resilience, space requirements, and infrastructure investments. Leveraging tools like satellite imagery, you will contribute to shaping the strategic landscape of port management. This role represents an exciting opportunity to be at the heart of insightful research, influencing the future of port infrastructure management through innovative approaches and advanced technologies. 


  • 24—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • Delft
  • Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


    We are looking for excellent candidates who are passionate about Port applications and have a proven interdisciplinary track record. This position requires expertise in artificial intelligence and working with big datasets. In particular, we look for candidates with:

  • An MSc degree in Civil Engineering, Maritime Engineering, Transport and Infrastructure, or any other related field
  • Expertise in applying AI models and big data analytics to diverse data sources
  • Good skills in scripting with Python
  • Affinity with port-related applications, dredging, and infrastructure maintenance
  • Ability to work in a collaborative, multidisciplinary environment both with scientific partners and stakeholders from industry
  • Additional experience with agent-based (and/or) discrete-event simulation and AIS data is a plus
  • Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. More specifically, TOEFL or IELTS English proficiency tests are required for all applicants except those whose MSc program was taught in English. The minimum requirement of a TOEFL score is 100 and IELTS is 7.0. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

    Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the .

    Conditions of employment

    Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

    Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

    Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2770 per month in the first year to € 3539 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

    The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. 

    For international applicants, TU Delft has the . This service provides information for new international employees to help you prepare the relocation and to settle in the Netherlands. The Coming to Delft Service offers a for partners and they organise events to expand your (social) network.


    Delft University of Technology

    Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

    At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core and we actively to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

    Challenge. Change. Impact!


    Faculty Civil Engineering & Geosciences

    The Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences (CEG) is committed to outstanding international research and education in the field of civil engineering, applied earth sciences, traffic and transport, water technology, and delta technology. Our research feeds into our educational programmes and covers societal challenges such as climate change, energy transition, resource availability, urbanisation and clean water. Our research projects are conducted in close cooperation with a wide range of research institutions. CEG is convinced of the importance of open science and supports its scientists in integrating open science in their research practice. The Faculty of CEG comprises 28 research groups in the following seven departments: Materials Mechanics Management & Design, Engineering Structures, Geoscience and Engineering, Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Transport & Planning, Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management.

    Click to go to the website of the Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences.

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