The autonomous-ship project being developed by the Norwegian maritime cluster has received around EUR 20.1 million (USD 22 million), one of the largest grants ever given to Norwegian players, from Horizon 2020, an EU research program.
Under the project, Kongsberg is going to install and test autonomous technology on two vessels in different operational environments. The two autonomous vessels will be demonstrated for use especially in short sea coastal shipping and Europe’s inland waterways.
“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,” says Egil Haugsdal, CEO of Kongsberg Maritime.
AUTOSHIP, a four-year Horizon 2020 project, is a collaboration between Kongsberg and Norway’s research organisation, SINTEF, as well as several European partners, including support from the Research Council of Norway.
“ 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. This is a NOK 200 million mark of quality,” says Iselin Nybø, Norway’s Minister of Research and Higher Education.
General cargo vessel Eidsvaag Pioneer 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.
According to Kongsberg, markets for both short sea coastal shipping and transport on inland waterways are expected to explode in the next few years, both in Norway, Europe, and worldwide.
“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 significant potential,” says Haugsdal.
As explained, 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 cybersecurity and integrating the vessels into upgraded e-infrastructure.
“We will contribute by developing cloud-based communications systems and advanced simulations to test and ensure that the autonomous vessels operate safely and optimally,” says Hege Skryseth, the CEO of Kongsberg Digital.
The other vessel to be equipped with autonomous technology is a Belgian pallet shuttle barge owned by Blue Line Logistics NV. The ship operates on canals in Europe, transporting goods to and from large container ports.
The cluster believes Europe’s inland waterways can achieve major environmental gains by using new technology.
Kongsberg added that an autonomous barge in operation is expected to take around 7,500 trucks off the roads each year, resulting in reductions in both traffic congestion and emissions.