Optimizing the Supply of Inland Water Transport

by John F. Hoffmeister, III, (A.M.ASCE), Transp. Planner; Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., Washington, DC,
Richard de Neufville, (M.ASCE), Assoc. Prof. and Dir.; Civ. Engrg. Systems Lab., MIT, Cambridge, MA,

Serial Information: Journal of the Waterways, Harbors and Coastal Engineering Division, 1973, Vol. 99, Issue 3, Pg. 293-308

Document Type: Journal Paper


This paper presents and explores a supply model for inland water transportation. The model is a technologic production function valid for all circumstances. It is used in combination with information about relative prices, to determine optimal configurations of tows. The major conclusions are: (1) the production function has diminishing marginal returns; (2) it has increasing returns to scale for lakes, but generally decreasing returns to scale for rivers, which implies that whereas it is desirable to build as large as possible for lake (or ocean) transport, there is a definite optimal size for any given river; and (3) fixed guidelines, in terms of horsepower/ton ratios, can be developed for lakes and other environments where currents are negligible, but are generally impossible to determine for river navigation. The optimal design guidelines depend upon relative prices of materials and wages. Total costs are relatively insensitive to additional horsepower beyond that required for the most economical design.

Subject Headings: Water supply systems | Lakes | Rivers and streams | Pricing | Hydrologic models | Ocean engineering | Ocean currents | Navigation (waterway)

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