Europort offers inland direction on autonomous ship developments
Autonomous and zero emission river transport is rapidly becoming a topic for regulators, as the inland waterways industry aligns itself with the fast-developing smart solutions that are already having a profound impact at sea.
International Maritime Organization authority does not extend inland, which is one reason the Commission for the Control and Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR) recently entered the autonomous shipping debate by adopting its own definitions on levels of automated navigation.
The new CCNR definitions provide a basis for smart inland vessel practices Europe-wide and a framework within which initiatives like the EU-funded NOVIMAR project can flourish. Coordinated by the Netherlands Maritime Technology Foundation (NMTF), NOVIMAR brings together 22 partners set on developing a concept where skippers of a lead inland vessel would operate a lightly crewed 'vessel train’ convoy in dense traffic.
The status of The Netherlands as home to the EU’s largest inland shipping fleet will act as a magnet drawing this specialized sector to Rotterdam’s Ahoy Centre for Europort 2019, November 5-8. Inland trade association Royal BLN-Schuttevaer, for example, is once again holding its annual conference alongside Europort, on November 8th.
CCNR recognises how vessel manoeuvrability, navigation and bridge/lock clearance will depend on technologies such as Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) for distance measuring/orientation. This closely aligns with Europort’s overarching 'special ships, smart solutions’ programme for 2019, whose three pillars comprise not only 'smart technology’ but also 'smart people’ and 'smart business’. The CCNR definitions also include guidance on future crew training needs.
Europort 2019 exhibitors will also be providing latest examples of the new technologies driving shipping’s digital revolution. Alphatron Marine will be highlighting how its Alpha River Track Pilot offers a fully automated course system for inland vessels to sail along a predetermined path even in difficult parts of a river system, such as between mountains. Again, digital, electric and connected themes overarch efforts by fellow exhibitor ABB to reduce inland vessel emissions via a hydrogen fuel cell-driven power and propulsion system for Compagnie Fluviale de Transport within the EU-funded Flagships Rhône river project.
Furthermore, safety is never far from the digitalization agenda. VDR, for example, is mandatory for deep sea shipping but not for inland vessels. Radio Holland CEO Europe, Paul Smulders, comments: "Unfortunately we have seen more accidents involving inland waterway vessels lately and we believe that the more widespread adoption of inland VDR would help reduce such incidents. Our new inland NW6000R River VDR registers everything that has occurred onboard and in the vicinity of the vessel and the data can be used to investigate causes of any accidents. It is also an ideal tool to monitor, measure and improve overall inland vessel performance and crew management.