Dutch consortium studies possibilities for autonomous shipping

It was announced in the framework of the Smart Shipping Challenge 2017 that a Dutch consortium of nearly 20 partners launched a project this month to study and demonstrate the technical possibilities for autonomous shipping. This is expected to help reduce operating costs and improve safety and sustainability in shipping.

The project will look at ways to deploy existing technical solutions in autonomous shipping applications. These solutions will be demonstrated both in simulators and in practice. While autonomous shipping is the ultimate aim, the intermediate steps of the project are also expected to provide useful results for the participants. This development is part of a trend of extensive digitisation in shipping, also referred to as ‘smart shipping’.

“Things are really moving! We’re very happy to have been able to jointly launch this project in this period that is so economically difficult for so many companies in our sector,” said Marnix Krikke, innovation director at Netherlands Maritime Technology. “The Delft University of Technology, MARIN and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) are all contributing their particular expertise to this applied research for autonomous vessels. This is done in cooperation with industrial partners, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the Dutch Ministry of Defence, a classification society, the Dutch pilot sector, and the educational institutes Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz, the Shipping and Transport College and Rotterdam Mainport Institute.”

Autonomous Shipping is a Joint Industry Project (JIP) that brings together a Dutch consortium of maritime businesses, knowledge & educational institutions, service providers, and governments in a two-year applied research programme. The study will start with an exploration and analysis of possible applications. Next, it will look at the requirements for safe navigation in shipping environments – autonomous vessels will have to make the right decisions even in case of malfunctions or heavy traffic. Then, the project will examine whether it is possible to use existing techniques to mitigate or fix these malfunctions from shore. This will be tested by means of simulations and various demonstrations, both in the office environment and on board actual vessels. The project should lead to a roadmap for the introduction of autonomy in shipping.

“This joint project will bring together both large and small businesses, such as Damen Shipyards, SeaZip Offshore Services and DEKC Maritime,” explains Sanne de Vleeschhouwer, project coordinator at Netherlands Maritime Technology. “It will give the partners insight into the current state of affairs as well as an understanding of the knowledge, skills and technology needed to achieve full autonomy. This will allow them to direct and implement their developments and solutions, each from their own different perspective.”

For more information, contact Marnix Krikke, Netherlands Maritime Technology, via +31 88 44 51 032 or krikke@maritimetechnology.nl.