WA Chapter of ASOR News

This report details three recent meetings (June, September and November) of the WA Chapter of ASOR.

James Marshall, DirectorAnalytics & Simulation, AECOM addressed the Branch in June. He spoke on: “Modelling Scheduled Rail Operations Within a Dynamic Mine to Port Supply Chain Simulation”.

Abstract: Due to planned increases in coal exports from mines in the South West of Western Australia, upgrades to supply chain infrastructure were required.  In particular the existing single track railway connecting the mines in the Collie region to the South West Mainline and Bunbury Port were likely to require additional passing loops and sections of dual tracking. 
Brookfield Rail, the below rail owner, commissioned AECOM to advise on the likely rail upgrades that would be required.  AECOM developed a discrete event simulation model of the supply chain however, unlike traditional pit to port models, trains could not operate on a ‘run when ready’ basis.  Brookfield Rail operates the railway on contracted, scheduled paths for a variety of users and the model needed to reflect this to provide realistic capacity results.
The model was used to recommend capacity upgrades that reflected realistic running of the railway without negatively impacting on other rail users.  The simulation was developed to be flexible enough to dynamically model terminal operations at the mine and port whilst interfacing with the scheduled rail operations.


Dr Emma Smith, Senior Consultant Statistician, Data Analysis Australia Pty Ltd addressed the Branch in September. She spoke on: “Knowing the Ropes - Simulation of Port Shipping”.

Abstract: A large number of activities in a shipping Port, from the perspective of the Harbour Master, can be considered as random processes. This includes the arrival times of the vessels themselves, the attributes of the arriving vessels, and the time they will need to spend at the berth to complete the loading or discharging of their cargo. The impact that potential future expansions may have on Port resources is hence not a straightforward matter to determine.

A Port simulation model in the ExtendSim8 package, as developed by Data Analysis Australia, is presented, along with discussion on how this model can be used to provide strategic information for an example Port. The resources considered include the physical characteristics of the Port, such as channels and berths, as well as the human resources required to facilitate vessel travel and berthing, and the relationships between resources. A simulation approach to this problem has many advantages, but there are some important limitations to keep in mind.


Dr John Henstridge, Managing Director | Principal Consultant Statistician, Data Analysis Australia Pty Ltd, addressed the Branch in November. He spoke on: “The Mathematician as an Expert: The Truth, the Whole Truth and Mathematics”.

Abstract: Mathematicians regard themselves as experts in various problems such as analysis of data and modelling.  It was clear to earlier mathematicians who had a focus on solving real life problems.  Figures like Fisher and Box were classic examples of such generalist statisticians.  Today there is greater specialisation in our profession, so there are individuals and indeed institutions that specialise in one area and can be very weak on others.  This is often described as focusing on a particular expertise.
It is appropriate to ask whether, in focusing on specialist expertise, we have lost our strength as experts in solving problems.  I would argue that, as a profession, we have to some extent lost the excitement that comes from solving significant real world problems, and this has been to our detriment in attracting younger members.
In this talk I draw from several examples of my own work as a legal expert witness to illustrate that statisticians are indeed well equipped to be valuable experts.  The legal context has very clear expectations of what an expert is and how they are expected to work.  They have a far less clear view of what a mathematician is.  While it is not reasonable for much of our work to be of this nature (“professional expert witnesses” are somewhat suspect), it does provide a vision of how we might see ourselves.


All three meetings were well attended and all attendees enjoyed the presentations and the discussions that followed.


WA Chapter Contacts
Prof Lou Caccetta , Chair, Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Curtin University (email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
Dr Lou Giannini, Secretary, Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Curtin University (email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
Associate Prof Volker Rehbock, Treasurer, Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Curtin University (email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).


Application for membership

Membership application form for the WA Chapter  pdf