Kongsberg to Test Autonomous Ship Technology

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

January 21, 2020

Eidsvaag Pioneer, which will be equipped for remote-operated and autonomous transport as part of the AUTOSHIP project Photo: Kongsberg

Eidsvaag Pioneer, which will be equipped for remote-operated and autonomous transport as part of the AUTOSHIP project Photo: Kongsberg

Norwegian technology firm Kongsberg announced it will install and test autonomous ship technologies on two vessels in Europe's inland waterways and short sea coastal shipping routes.

The AUTOSHIP project will aim 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 cyber security and integrating the vessels into upgraded e-infrastructure, Kongsberg said.

One of the two vessels that will be equipped for remote-operated and autonomous maritime transport, Eidsvaag Pioneer is owned by the Eidsvaag shipping company and operates along the Norwegian coast and in fjord areas where it carries fish feed to fish-farms.

The other vessel to be equipped with autonomous technology is a Belgian pallet shuttle barge owned by Blue Line Logistics NV that operates on canals in Europe, transporting goods to and from large container ports.

The four-year project, backed by almost NOK 200 million ($22.3 million) from the EU's Horizon 2020 research program, is a collaboration between Kongsberg, Norwegian research organization SINTEF and several European partners. The Research Council of Norway is also providing support.

Egil Haugsdal, CEO of Kongsberg Maritime, said, "We will demonstrate that it is possible to remotely operate several ships from land and over large geographical areas."

Hege Skryseth, CEO of Kongsberg Digital, said the firm will develop cloud-based communications systems and advanced simulations to test and ensure that the autonomous vessels operate safely and optimally.

"The technology is used in different ways on the vessel to show that the solutions can be applied widely," Haugsdal said. "This is a market with a significant potential."

An autonomous barge in operation on Europe's inland waterways, for example, can achieve major environmental gains, Kongsberg said. It expects the new technology could take around 7,500 trucks off the roads each year, reducing both traffic congestion and emissions. 

The markets for both short sea coastal shipping and transport on inland waterways are expected to dramatically expand in the next few years, both in Norway, Europe, and worldwide. 

"There is increasing market demand for waterborne transport in the EU," Haugsdal said. "The results of the AUTOSHIP project will lead to safer and greener transport in Europe with one of the major outcomes being a shift of goods transport from roads to waterways."

Kongsberg is also involved in several other autonomous shipping projects, including the develpment of fully electric and autonomous containership Yara Birkeland as well as several autonomous ferries. It's also teamed up with Wilhelmsen to form autonomous shipping company Massterly.

"The Norwegian maritime cluster, of which Kongsberg is a part, is the world leader in autonomous shipping. Now we are further strengthening our position through the AUTOSHIP project, which will accelerate the realization of next-generation autonomous ships and create a roadmap for commercializing autonomous shipping in the EU in the next five years," Haugsdal said.

Iselin Nybø, Norway's Minister of Research and Higher Education, said, “The AUTOSHIP project gives Northern Europe, with Norway, a leading edge in developing the next generation of autonomous vessels. The race is underway internationally. The technology contributes to safer, more efficient and sustainable operations at sea, both in transport and aquaculture. The project will now receive one of the largest allocations ever made from the EU's Horizon 2020 program to a Norwegian player. This is a NOK 200 million mark of quality."

Belgian pallet shuttle barge owned by Blue Line Logistics NV (Photo: Kongsberg)

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