Autonomous ship project receives EU funding

Iselin Nybø, Norway’s Minister of Research and Higher Education, on board Eidsvaag Pioneer, with Gunnar Pedersen, Vidar Skretting, and Johnny Stene. Credit: Kongsberg

Kongsberg, a technology systems and solutions group, will install and test autonomous technology on two vessels operating in different environments. It was announced on 21 January that the project will receive funding of about EUR20 million (USD22 million) from the Horizon 2020 budget, an EU research programme.

The project, Autoship, will be a four-year collaboration between Kongsberg and Norway’s leading research organisation, SINTEF, as well as with several other European partners. The Research Council of Norway will also be providing support.

The two autonomous vessels will be tested in shortsea coastal shipping and in inland waterways. One of the vessels, Eidsvaag Pioneer, will be equipped with remote operated and autonomous maritime systems. The vessel is owned by the Eidsvaag shipping company and operates along the Norwegian coast and in vulnerable fjord areas where it carries fish feed to fish farms.

The other vessel to be equipped with autonomous technology is a Belgian pallet shuttle barge owned by Blue Line Logistics NV. It operates on canals in Europe, transporting goods to and from large container ports. Europe’s inland waterways can achieve major environmental gains by using new technology. An autonomous barge is expected to take about 7,500 trucks off the roads each year and will result in reductions in both traffic congestion and fuel emissions.

The aim of the project is to test and develop key technology linked to fully autonomous navigation systems, intelligent machinery systems, self-diagnostics, prognostics, and operation scheduling, as well as communication technology enabling a prominent level of cyber security and integrating the vessels into upgraded e-infrastructure.

Iselin Nybø, Norway’s Minister of Research and Higher Education, said, “The Autoship project gives northern Europe, with Norway, a leading edge in developing the next generation of autonomous vessels. The race is under way internationally. The technology contributes to safer, more efficient, and sustainable operations at sea, both in transport and aquaculture.”