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EU grants €7.5m for research into autonomous shipping

Image courtesy of MacGregor/Cargotec. Image courtesy of MacGregor/Cargotec.

A project to demonstrate how autonomous ships and automation in ports can make waterborne transport more flexible and reduce environmental impact has received EUR 7.5 million from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"} The project, “Advanced, Efficient and Green Intermodal Systems" (AEGIS) will develop new and more competitive systems for waterborne transport.  It aims to leverage a multidisciplinary team to integrate new innovations from the area of Connected and Automated Transport (CAT) to design the next generation sustainable and highly competitive waterborne transport system in Europe. This includes more diverse sizes of ships and more flexible ship systems, automated cargo handling, ports and short sea shuttles, standardized cargo units and new digital technologies.

Small ships and inland barges can decongest roads, reduce pollution from noise and dust, while operating on batteries or other non-carbon fuels to provide green transport solutions. By automating ports and terminals and use these to integrate longer distance ship operations with the smaller ships, a new European transport system that is more flexible and user-centric with better services to rural as well as urban areas and a revitalisation of the regional ports and city terminals can be developed.   

The AEGIS use-cases are located in North Europe and represent typical inter-European transports that need to be linked to local distribution systems.  Case A is led by North Sea Container Line in cooperation with the the Port of Trondheim. It uses small cargo shuttles to link coastal container ships to rural and urban destinations in the region.  This saves time for the larger ships and adds flexibility and frequency with the shuttles.  Case B is led by DFDS and will link RORO short sea services in BeNeLux to inland waterways. This will use a similar concept as in Case A. Case C is led by Port of Aalborg in cooperation with Port of Vordingborg and will examine how existing small and medium sized ports can use automation to facilitate the transfer of cargo from trucks to sea.

In all cases, automatic trans-shipment is an important factor. The consortium consists of technology providers Kalmar and MacGregor, both part of Cargotec, to develop new solutions for cargo handling in ports and on vessels. Grieg Connect will provide corresponding solutions for digital integration and automation.  The research partners include Institut für Strukturleichtbau und Energieeffizienz GmbH (ISE), Technical University of Denmark, (DTU), Aalborg University and SINTEF Ocean. The AEGIS consortium comprises 12 highly qualified partners from 4 countries: Norway, Denmark, Finland and Germany.  The project is coordinated by SINTEF Ocean in Norway and its duration is three years, starting June 1, 2020.

 “AEGIS will provide a completely new way of thinking about waterborne cargo transport. It will allow us to provide much better services to our customers and reduce time and emissions for our ships,” said Kenneth Johanson, digital manager, North Sea Container Line (NCL).

“The AEGIS project will give us a unique possibility to further improve the interconnection for our RORO services with inland waterway connections and last-mile transport thus supporting our efforts towards more sustainable logistics solutions,” commented Mads Bentzen Billesø, senior project manager, innovation & partnerships, DFDS.

 “Autonomous ships combined with port automation is the one of the keys to our future waterborne transport systems. End-user services will be much improved, regularity and frequency can be increased and this with no increase in costs,” said Ørnulf Jan Rødseth, secretary, International Network for Autonomous Ships. {/mprestriction}

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    Dr. Ben Gully

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    This article was originally published on VPO Global.

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