Physical Internet and Self-organisation

The Physical Internet (PI) project uses scenarios to study the operation of PI, a transport model based on fully connected and open networks of logistics services. The project Self-organisation (SOL) looks at self-organisation options and their effects.



Although being more than just that, Physical Internet (PI) in this project is seen as a transport model that is based on fully connected and open networks of logistics services. By analogy with sending e-mails (of which parts are sent to the recipient along the current optimal route), parts of physical loads via various routes arrive at the right place, at the right time.

Is this a workable model in logistics? Can we distribute parts of the container cargo over transport modalities, based on available capacity and customer needs (such as speed, price, sustainability)?

Research questions in the PI project are: How could that physical internet model work, what are the consequences of this way of working and what are the consequences for Rotterdam?

In addition, scenarios are explored, for example: how realistic is the application of the model in times of increasing protectionism?

The Self-organization in Logistics project looks at what that self-organization might look like and what the effects will be in the case of various elaborations, for example: central versus decentralized management (who gets priority, escalation levels). Various models and scenarios are worked out and calculations are made to see which scenarios yield savings, or for example, cause more transport movements. Some testing is done on a small scale to see how various options will work in practice.


  • Lower transportation costs, higher reliability.
  • Fewer CO2 emissions due to a reduction in transport kilometers and a broader opportunity to opt for more sustainable transport options.


If it still concerns concepts, the actual functioning of them cannot be measured and cannot be demonstrated. There is still a lot of uncertainty and that makes implementation difficult.


  • Implementation of the physical internet concept provides more efficient transport of cargo.
  • Existing infrastructure networks and routes are better utilized, inefficient routes can be stopped.


Groningen Seaports, Port of Rotterdam Authority, NWO, Groningen University, Delft University.


2016 – 2020

This project is part of the Smart Logistics roadmap. For more information about this project or this roadmap, please contact project developer Anique Kuijpers.