Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Twenty Million Euro Grant to Support Inland Waterway Freight Carriage

EU Cash Backs Autonomous Shipping Trial
Shipping News Feature

NORWAY – Horizon 2020, an EU research programme, has granted funds of over €20 million to a cluster of Norwegian interests to install and test autonomous technology on two vessels in different operational environments. This is one of the largest grants ever given to players from that country.

Autoship, the Autonomous Shipping Initiative for European Waters, a four-year Horizon 2020 project, is a collaboration between Kongsberg and Norway's leading research organisation, SINTEF, as well as several European partners. The Research Council of Norway is also providing support. Egil Haugsdal, CEO of Kongsberg Maritime, explains:

"The Norwegian maritime cluster, which Kongsberg is part of, is the world leader in autonomous shipping. Now we are further strengthening our position through the Autoship project which will accelerate the realisation of next-generation autonomous ships and create a roadmap for commercialising autonomous shipping in the EU in the next five years.

"We will demonstrate that it is possible to remotely operate several ships from land and over large geographical areas. The technology is used in different ways on the vessel to show that the solutions can be applied widely. This is a market with a significant potential, there is increasing demand for waterborne transport in the EU. The results of the Autoship project will lead to safer and greener transport in Europe with one of the major outcomes being a shift of goods transport from roads to waterways.”

The most recent event this week took place in Kristiansund on board the Eidsvaag Pioner, which is one of the two vessels that will now be equipped for remote-operated and autonomous maritime transport. This ship is owned by the Eidsvaag shipping company and operates along the Norwegian coast and in vulnerable fjord areas where it carries fish feed to fish-farms. Iselin Nybø, Norway's Minister of Research and Higher Education, showed approval, saying:

“The Autoship project gives Northern Europe with Norway a leading edge in developing the next generation of autonomous vessels. The race is underway internationally. The technology contributes to safer, more efficient and sustainable operations at sea, both in transport and aquaculture. The project now receives one of the largest allocations from the EU's Horizon 2020 program to a Norwegian player ever.”

The other vessel to be equipped with autonomous technology is a Belgian pallet shuttle barge owned by Belgian based Blue Line Logistics NV. This operates on canals in Europe, transporting goods to and from large container ports. Europe's inland waterways can achieve major environmental gains by using new technology. An autonomous barge in operation is expected to take around 7,500 trucks off the roads each year and will result in reductions in both traffic congestion and emissions.

The aim of the project is to test and further develop key technology linked to fully autonomous navigation systems, intelligent machinery systems, self-diagnostics, prognostics and operation scheduling, as well as communication technology enabling a prominent level of cyber security and integrating the vessels into upgraded e-infrastructure. Hege Skryseth, the CEO of Kongsberg Digital said his company will contribute by developing cloud-based communications systems and advanced simulations to test and ensure that the autonomous vessels operate safely and optimally.

Photo: The Eidsvaag Pioner under way.