Autonomous vessel tested on Belgian inland waterways

The AUTOSHIP project has followed up a recent successful test in Norway with another autonomous vessel demonstration in Belgium, completing a 16.5km circuit starting from a port in Niel on the Rupel River.

The test vessel, Zulu 4, an inland waterway barge owned by Blue Line Logistics, was equipped for remote-operated and autonomous transport technologies for the project, which is part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme.

As part of the test, led by Kongsberg Maritime, the vessel manoeuvred and navigated on unrestricted waterways, and demonstrated berthing and unberthing capabilities using its onboard control technology, while an onshore remote operation centre (ROC) provided support. A safety crew was on board the vessel during the test.

Zulu 4 was equipped with Autodocking, Autocrossing and automatic navigation systems, as well as cloud-based communications. The vessel started its voyage from port, entering a sea canal before traversing locks and passing several bridges.

Under remote monitoring from the ROC, the team and vessel had to show situational awareness, engine and machinery monitoring, berthing/unberthing and manoeuvring in port. The same tasks were demonstrated under autonomous control, as well as collision avoidance, grounding avoidance, transit sailing and automatic mooring. Zulu 4 also demonstrated the ability to switch between autonomous operation and remote-controlled operation.

“We are delighted with the performance of the Zulu 4 on what is a challenging route through the busy Belgian waterways. The course that the Zulu 4 completed provided an opportunity to test our technology in a real-life situation, where numerous manoeuvres were performed successfully and safely,” said Pål André Eriksen, Senior Vice President, Remote & Autonomous Solutions, Kongsberg Maritime.

“The test run provides all partners within AUTOSHIP with essential experience and data, which can help us advance the adoption of remote-controlled and autonomous technology in the maritime sector.”

“Together with last week’s successful demonstration of a coastal cargo ship in Norway, we have proved that these technologies are applicable across different vessel types and suited to a variety of operations.”

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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