A new EU-backed project to create advanced trade lanes connecting autonomous vessels with automated port services is now underway, with the AEGIS (Advanced Efficient and Green Intermodal Services) initiative marking its official start on 1 June, 2020.
The project, backed by €7.5 million in EU funding, involves a consortium of partners from four countries: Norway, Denmark, Finland and Germany. These include technology providers Grieg Connect, Cargotec and MacGregor, as well as research institutes ISE, DTU, AAU and SINTEF Ocean.
Port and vessel operators DFDS, NorthSea Container Line, Port of Aalborg, Trondheim Port Authority and Vordingborg Port complete the group. The project is coordinated by SINTEF Ocean out of Norway.
“Autonomous ships combined with port automation is the one of the keys to our future waterborne transport systems. End-user services will be much improved, regularity and frequency can be increased, and this with no increase in costs,” said Ørnulf Jan Rødseth, SINTEF Ocean.
AEGIS aims to demonstrate how more frequent use of small ships and inland barges, operating on batteries or other non-carbon fuels, could decongest European roads and reduce pollution, creating a new European transport system with automated ports and terminals that can integrate larger long distance ship operations with new and smaller ship types.
Initial use cases to be tested by the project will be located in Northern Europe and feature the port and vessel operators in the consortium.
Case A is led by NorthSea Container Lines, in cooperation with the Port of Trondheim, and will feature small cargo shuttles linking coastal container ships to rural and urban destinations. Case B, led by DFDS, will link RORO short sea services to inland waterways. Case C, led by Port of Aalborg in cooperation with Port of Vordingborg, will examine how existing ports can use automation to facilitate the transfer of cargo from trucks to sea.
“Ports, as natural logistic hubs, must address the challenges and opportunities that lie in digitalisation, to facilitate the valuable benefits of maritime transport in terms of efficiency, safety and environmental considerations,” said Vidar Fagerheim, Managing Director, Grieg Connect.
“AEGIS is an ambitious project led by SINTEF Ocean, and a great opportunity for us at Grieg Connect to be a part of the solutions of tomorrow. The risk of doing nothing for the maritime industry will be that sea transport loses market share to other industries that offer freight by road, air and railway.”
AEGIS is a three year research project, and part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.