In the series of impact stories from SmartPort; driver of port innovation
SmartPort: the (knowledge) hub for Smart Shipping
Technological innovations follow each other in rapid succession. This also applies to the maritime sector. The presentation of the autonomous cargo ship Yara Birkeland in 2017 is a strong example[i]. Autonomous smart ships need a smart port for an efficient and effective port visit. For example, the interaction of autonomously sailing ships with other ships, traffic managers and infrastructure, in the absence of global standards, is a major challenge. In recent years, SmartPort has supported various studies in the field of infrastructure and logistics in relation to digitization in shipping. The results of the various studies are now coming together and make SmartPort a knowledge hub for Smart Shipping and receiving autonomous ships in Rotterdam.
Sensors: inland vessels become measuring vessels
CoVadem, an initiative created by MARIN, Deltares, Autena Marine and Bureau Telematica Binnenvaart, has equipped a large number of inland vessels in the Netherlands with a smart box. During the voyage, data is collected from existing sensors about, among other things, the bottom, water level and performance data of the ship, such as fuel consumption, loading and emissions. “Looking at this data in a different way can greatly improve inland shipping,” says Meeuwis van Wirdum, CEO and founder at CoVadem. The measurements of the dozens of inland vessels result in an enormous amount of data that makes it possible to make predictions about water depths and vertical clearance. Inland vessels know exactly how much cargo they can take with them. The experience about the behavior of the ship, which is traditionally “in humans”, is now also registered in digital form. With this operational data, smart services are developed with which the crew can be supported. The ship will ‘think along’, as it were. This ensures a more efficient use of ships and results in a reduction in CO2 emissions. The depth information can also be used in waterway maintenance and water management. [ii]
Figure 1 With the CoVadem Box data is collected and translated to valuable insights for waterway users as waterway managers.
CoVadem in the port
In 2017, SmartPort supported CoVadem with an exploration of the added value of the CoVadem initiative for the port of Rotterdam. It became clear that a measuring network of inland vessels can be of great added value. When a sufficient number of inland vessels are equipped with these sensors and the measurements provide the desired information. Both points could be improved. SmartPort co-financed a follow-up study to further calibrate the data and also to measure vessels of the Port of Rotterdam Authority and Rijkswaterstaat.
By equipping inland vessels with sensors in this way and linking the data to the waterway maps, an important basis for Smart Shipping on inland waterways is created: real-time insight into the depth of the rivers and the performance data in relation to the environment. By proactively supporting people and technology based on responsible experience data, an important contribution is made to the introduction of Smart Shipping.
In 2019, CoVadem has grown into a professional organization. Covadem has succeeded in having more than 80 individual inland shipping entrepreneurs join their initiative, as well as a large number of other players in inland shipping such as Danser Containerline, Heuvelman Groep, NPRC, Shipping Factory and ThyssenKrupp Veerhaven. “The support of SmartPort enables further cooperation with parties such as the Port of Rotterdam Authority, MARIN and Deltares, and that is of great value,” says Meeuwis van Wirdum.
Be ready for autonomous ships
The Port of Rotterdam Authority, in particular the Harbor Master’s division, has the important task of ensuring smooth and safe traffic through the port. Tiedo Vellinga, Emeritus Professor of Ports and Waterways (TU Delft), together with SmartPort, has emphasized on additional research into models for nautical traffic management. These models can, among other things, calculate the maximum capacity of the port. Calculations based on the conditions that traffic can pass each other under safe conditions and experience as few delays as possible. Another important added value of the models is that they can predict, based on and among other things, AIS data, wind and current models, where ships will sail. In this way, dangerous situations can be estimated. Prevention of collisions and smooth passage are elementary aspects in the development of autonomous ships. The models thus not only provide important input for the Harbor Master for the management of shipping traffic, but can also be crucial for the environment of autonomous ships and the situation in which they must determine the route.
Figure 2 Advantages that the results of the research in the field of nautical traffic management can deliver.
In SwarmPort, another project that is supported by SmartPort and in which the Harbor Master is closely involved, research is being done into the nautical services around the ship when visiting the port. Mapping and modelling these processes makes it possible to analyze optimization that reduces the stay time of a ship in the port. Swarm intelligence, such as, for example, fishing in large numbers cooperating in nature, can be of added value.
Insight into the development of autonomous ships and impact on the port
The nautical traffic models and the CoVadem initiative show that more and more elements are available for autonomous ships. Interest from the port community is also growing. This is also clearly evident from the large-scale survey that SmartPort had conducted in 2018 (innovation barometer 2018). For example, approximately 50% of logistics companies expected autonomous ships to become more important for operational management and strategy in the next five years. The interest in this subject is of course not new.
As early as 2017, the Port of Rotterdam Authority asked SmartPort to conduct a study into the developments in the field of autonomous sailing. How far is the development and what should the port take into account if it is to receive autonomous ships? A consortium of TU Delft, Erasmus University and TNO, led by Prof. Dr. Rudy Negenborn, expert in the field of autonomous sailing, gets to work. Parallel to the start of the research, other initiatives are also being developed in the Netherlands, such as the Smart Shipping Challenge of Rijkswaterstaat, which has given a boost to initiatives and cooperation in the field of smart ships. [iii]
At the end of 2017, the first results of the research initiated by SmartPort have been presented during the SMASH event. The exploration shows that different development stages can be identified, with the fully autonomous ship as the final stage. The business case for inland vessels is expected to be the first positive. One of the major advantages of autonomous ships is that no or less personnel is required. The share of personnel costs on inland vessels is relatively large, as a result of which the investment in autonomous sailing vessels pays off the fastest for this sector.
However, there are still some technical challenges, especially in the field of the interaction of shore with – and between – autonomous ships. “The challenge is to apply the opportunities that autonomous ships offer in the field of silent communication and exchange of data in such a way that the entire traffic system benefits and becomes safer”, says Harmen van Dorsser (Port of Rotterdam Authority).
The Province of South Holland is already taking steps in this area with a dashboard for the controls of the bridges on the river Gouwe. This concerns the communication between the manager of the infrastructure and the ships.
Autonomous sailing therefore also creates new jobs. For example in the field of maintenance, which will mainly have to take place in the port and the monitoring and control of ships from shore control centers. This requires new skills from the staff working in this sector.[iv]
During the study, in addition to the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Rijkswaterstaat and the Port of Amsterdam were also involved in the developments developed by the knowledge institutions. To make the results of the research more widely accessible and to test them with various parties in the inland shipping and maritime shipping chain, SmartPort has requested CGI to develop a white paper on Smart Ships. Input for the white paper is collected through, among other things, the organization of workshops with stakeholders. The white paper provides a comprehensive overview of the impact of smart ships on the environment during a visit to a port. It also shows the importance of some practical challenges, for example in the field of legislation and regulations.
SmartPort has also commissioned research in this legal area, because the current legal framework can delay the introduction of autonomous ships. To this end, a collaboration with law firm CMS Nederland has been initiated, of course in coordination with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, which is responsible for this.
In 2018, for example, the ministry introduced the autonomous ships experimentation law for companies to test. This law is still too limited for a wider roll-out of autonomous ships. The development of autonomous ships is accompanied by the application of renewable fuels for propulsion, a challenge that also requires further research.
All the research and initiatives in the field of smart shipping, such as the Researchlab Autonomous Shipping at TU Delft, show that the Smart Shipping ecosystem is in full development in the Netherlands. SmartPort makes an important contribution to this by initiating and supporting research, sharing knowledge and connecting parties in various areas. The realized knowledge in the field of situational awareness forms an important basis for welcoming smart ships in the port of Rotterdam.
Investments in SmartPort related research on Smart Shipping
- SmartPort 172k euro
- Bedrijfsleven 82k euro
- Overheid(subsidies) 183k euro
[iv] Autonomous Ships in the Port of Rotterdam, exploration of perspectives and potential, TU Delft, Erasmus University and TNO (2018)