European Union Horizon 2020 funding of €20.1M (US$22.3M) will help finance autonomous shipping and remote control technology demonstrations on two vessels in northern Europe in the next four years
The Autoship joint industry project will use this funding to test and further develop autonomy on a shortsea coastal cargo ship and an inland waterways barge.
This project is a collaboration between Kongsberg, Norwegian research organisation SINTEF and several European partners. The Research Council of Norway is also providing support to Autoship.
Norway’s minister of research and higher education Iselin Nybø said northern Europe will be ahead in a race to develop autonomous ships through the Autoship project.
“The race is underway internationally,” she said. “The Autoship project gives northern Europe a leading edge in developing the next generation of autonomous vessels.”
Ms Nybø expects benefits to the whole of shipping from technology developed in this project. “The technology contributes to safer, more efficient and sustainable operations at sea, both in transport and aquaculture,” she added.
Kongsberg Maritime chief executive Egil Haugsdal expects Autoship to drive further autonomous development during this decade. “Auotship 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,” said Mr Haugsdal.
Kongsberg will install and test autonomous technology on two vessels in different operational environments.
One will be installed on Eidsvaag Pioneer, which transports fish feed to fish farms along the Norwegian coast.
More autonomous technology will be installed on a Belgian-based and Blue Line Logistics-owned pallet shuttle barge, which operates on European canals to transport goods to and from large container ports.
For Mr Haugsdal, these will demonstrate this technology can be used in different ways and various applications.
And, this is just the beginning.
“We will demonstrate that it is possible to remotely operate several ships from land and over large geographical areas,” said Mr Haugsdal. “This is a market with a significant potential.”
Autoship is to test and further develop technology linked to:
Kongsberg Digital will contribute by developing cloud-based communications systems and advanced simulations to test and ensure autonomous vessels operate safely and optimally.
Autonomous vessel technology will be presented during Riviera Maritime Media’s Optimised Ship Forum and Smart Tug Operations series in 2020