EU grants €7.5 million to autonomous ship and port automation research project

A DFDS Ro-Ro vessel (Photo: Knud E. Hansen)

The European Union, through its Horizon 2020 research and innovation initiative, has awarded €7.5 million (US$8.47 million) in grant funding to the Advanced, Efficient and Green Intermodal Systems (AEGIS) project, which seeks to make waterborne transport more competitive through the introduction of autonomous vessels and automation in ports.

The project proposes the use of small ships and inland barges to decongest roads, reduce pollution from noise and dust, while operating on batteries or other non-carbon fuels to provide green transport solutions.

Further, the project team claims that, by automating ports and terminals and use these to integrate longer distance ship operations with the smaller ships, a completely new European transport system can be developed that is also more flexible and user-centric, thus allowing the distribution of better services to rural as well as urban areas and a revitalisation of regional ports and city terminals.

The AEGIS use-cases are located in North Europe and represent typical inter-European transports that need to be linked to local distribution systems.

Case A is led by North Sea Container Line in cooperation with the the Port of Trondheim. It uses small cargo shuttles to link coastal container ships to rural and urban destinations in the region, thus saving time for the larger ships and adding flexibility and frequency with the shuttles.

Case B is led by DFDS and will link Ro-Ro short sea services in BeNeLux to inland waterways. This will use a similar concept as in Case A.

Case C is led by Port of Aalborg in cooperation with Port of Vordingborg and will examine how existing small and medium sized ports can use automation to facilitate the transfer of cargo from trucks to sea.

The consortium consists of technology providers Kalmar and MacGregor, both part of Cargotec, to develop new solutions for cargo handling in ports and on vessels. Grieg Connect will provide corresponding solutions for digital integration and automation.

The research partners are Institut für Strukturleichtbau und Energieeffizien (ISE), Technical University of Denmark, Aalborg University, and SINTEF Ocean.

The AEGIS consortium comprises 12 partners from Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Germany. The project is coordinated by SINTEF Ocean in Norway and its duration is three years starting June 1, 2020.

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