A Dutch consortium of around 20 maritime businesses, knowledge and educational institutions, as well as service providers and governments, have been established to study and demonstrate the technical possibilities for autonomous shipping.

The consortium will work within the framework of the Smart Shipping Challenge 2017.

According to Netherlands Maritime Technology (NMT), a trade association that represents the Dutch maritime technology sector, the consortium will undertake a joint industry project (JIP) that is expected to help minimise operating costs and improve safety and sustainability in shipping.

NMT innovation director Marnix Krikke said: “The Delft University of Technology, MARIN and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) are all contributing their particular expertise to this applied research for autonomous vessels.

“This is done in cooperation with industrial partners, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the Dutch Ministry of Defence, a classification society, the Dutch pilot sector, and the educational institutes Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz, the Shipping and Transport College and Rotterdam Mainport Institute.”

“The two-year applied research programme will seek to find ways of employing existing technical solutions in autonomous shipping applications.”

The two-year applied research programme will seek to find ways of employing existing technical solutions in autonomous shipping applications.

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The programme will also evaluate the requirements for safe navigation in shipping environments, as autonomous vessels will have to make right decisions even in case of malfunctions or heavy traffic.

It will further examine the possibility of using existing technologies to mitigate or fix these malfunctions from shore, paving the way for ‘smart shipping’.

The technologies are expected to be demonstrated both in simulators and in a real environment.