An autonomous e-barge will be developed to address emerging capacity bottleneck for internal container transportation
An international alliance headed by the Port of Rotterdam Authority has been awarded nearly €25M (US$31M) in EU funding to implement projects aimed at sustainable and smart port logistics. This involves developing a plan that sets out how transport within, to and from ports can be made carbon-free by 2050.
The research project, nicknamed MAGPIE (sMArt Green Ports as Integrated Efficient multimodal hubs) was borne out of a collaboration between the port authorities of Rotterdam, DeltaPort (Germany), HAROPA (France: La Havre, Rouen, Paris) and Sines (Portugal), in partnership with 10 research institutions and over 30 companies in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Portugal and Denmark.
Wärtsilä, who is the largest industrial partner of MAGPIE, is set to receive the biggest portion of the grant for a sub-project to demonstrate a commercially viable autonomous intra-port inter-terminal container shuttle to address an emerging capacity bottleneck for internal container transportation.
The installation will include several of the latest Wärtsilä solutions including SmartMove Suite, which provides a pairing of sensor tech with navigation systems for safe, automated ship movement. Wärtsilä’s autonomous solutions have been tried and tested successfully in highly congested waters before, both in complex inland waterways and at international ports like Singapore and have proved they can handle high traffic volumes safely by design.
“We believe that overland transport modes will not be able to absorb the emerging capacity bottleneck for internal container movement. We will be delivering an autonomous e-barge concept that can greatly enhance efficiency in the Port of Rotterdam through automated seaborne cargo transhipment. Our ambition is to see these container shuttles introduced into a smart logistics network within the next few years,” said Wärtsilä Voyage business development engineer Hendrik Busshoff.
For the barge to not only being smart, but also emissions free, electric propulsion will be enabled by means of an electric drive train and a ground-breaking interchangeable battery container solution, which is charged using renewable power.
“At Wärtsilä, we maintain that an autonomy strategy is key to a zero-emissions ambition. To complement the e-navigation set up, we are part of a consortium that has developed a concept based on the use of replaceable battery containers, known as ZESPacks (zero emission services). A network of open access charging points will be set up for exchanging battery containers for fully charged replacements, thereby keeping waiting time to a minimum. The first of these battery containers will be installed mid-2021,” said Ecosystem Innovation, Wärtsilä Marine Systems general manager Teus Van Beek.
Wärtsilä has drawn on its inland waterway experience to create the most effective battery containers – something which brewer, Heineken, has already signed up to as a carbon-neutral way of moving 45,000 containers of beer a year up to the Port of Rotterdam.
“…The future of port logistics belongs to intelligent connected and sustainable systems such as the autonomous e-barge system that we now set to develop together. We very much look forward to this highly promising collaboration,” said Port of Rotterdam director of smart mobility and 5G Ori Marom.
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