Dutch Consortium to Study Autonomous Shipping

A Dutch consortium of nearly 20 partners has launched a Joint Industry Project (JIP) to study and demonstrate the technical possibilities for autonomous shipping.

Announced in the framework of the Smart Shipping Challenge 2017, which started on November 30, the two-year applied research programme is expected to help reduce operating costs and improve safety and sustainability in shipping, and lead to a roadmap for the introduction of autonomy in the sector.

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, according to the Netherlands Maritime Technology.

The Delft University of Technology, MARIN and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) are all contributing their 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.

“This joint project will bring together both large and small businesses, such as Damen Shipyards, SeaZip Offshore Services and DEKC Maritime,” Sanne de Vleeschhouwer, project coordinator at Netherlands Maritime Technology, said.

“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,” de Vleeschhouwer concluded.

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