First autonomous manoeuvring vessel trials held on North Sea


27 March 2019

A unique series of autonomous operations trials were held on the North Sea on 19 and 20 March, about five nautical miles off the coast of Den Helder (NL). SeaZip 3, a Damen Fast Crew Supplier 2610 ‘Twin Axe’ (Bureau Veritas class, Netherlands flag), from SeaZip Offshore Services was outfitted with collision avoidance technology and took part in several nautical scenarios to determine how the vessel would interact with seagoing traffic.

The trials are part of the Joint Industry Project Autonomous Shipping, a two-year research & innovation project started in 2017 and focused on autonomous operations of seagoing vessels. “We are proud that our consortium of 17 partners established the first ever autonomous operations with seagoing vessels held at the North Sea”, comments Marnix Krikke, innovation director at Netherlands Maritime Technology (NMT) and project leader of the Joint Industry Project: “A total of 11 scenarios were run in which SeaZip 3 interacted with two other vessels, Octans, a training vessel of the Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz and Guardian, an Emergency Towage Vessel operated by The Netherlands Coastguard. These scenarios are the outcome of research by Technical University of Delft, MARIN and TNO. The scenarios were first tested in the MARIN simulator centre in Wageningen and now, last week, in a real-life environment on the North Sea.”

By testing the scenarios on the North Sea, the partners involved were able to show the decision-making process of an autonomous system in ensuring safe sailing and avoiding collisions with other vessels. The autonomous system provided by Robosys Automation, connected to the on-board autopilot and machinery control system, performed the evasive manoeuvres in a safe way. It was concluded that further development of autonomous systems is needed, to cope with complex marine traffic situations in a more efficient way.

Autonomous shipping roadmap

The demonstration provides input for an autonomous shipping roadmap which will define the lessons learned and the obstacles, technology and potential as well as the steps to be taken towards further realisation. The roadmap will guide development of technology within the Netherlands maritime industry, the knowledge institutions, the academia and the government. These include not only technical issues but also those in the regulatory field and aspects such as risk management. Mark van der Star, managing partner at SeaZip Offshore Service, says that the impact of autonomous shipping and the possibilities it offers are enormous: “We are continually busy with innovation at SeaZip Offshore Service and proud that our offshore service vessel SeaZip 3 is the first ship to carry out a fully autonomous test on the North Sea. Participating in this project has enhanced our knowledge in a wide range of fields and will help us grow further as a shipping company in the future.”

Broad consortium

This Joint Industry Project is unique in the sense that it is supported by a broad consortium of stakeholders: shipping companies SeaZip Offshore Service, Fugro, and the Dutch Pilotage organisation, Damen Shipyards and Feadship, naval architects DEKC Maritime, technology suppliers Bosch Rexroth, Robosys Automation, knowledge institutions MARIN, TNO, Technical University of Delft, classification society Bureau Veritas, maritime academies Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz – NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences, Rotterdam Mainport Institute (STC & Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences) and project coordinator Netherlands Maritime Technology. The Dutch government is represented by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Ministry of Defence (Defence Materiel Organisation). It is partly funded by the TKI-Maritiem allowance of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.

For more information you can contact innovation manager Sanne de Vleeschhouwer, Netherlands Maritime Technology, via +3188 44 51 032 or and Marnix Krikke, Netherlands Maritime Technology, +31884451031 or

Maersk, Dutch firms strike deal on emissions


Global shipping Line leader Maersk has joined forces with Dutch multinationals to fight pollution in marine transport.

Maersk said it appreciates the global urgency to conserve climate.

“Convinced of the urgency to act on climate, a group of Dutch multinationals — Friesland Campina, Heineken, Philips, DSM, Shell and Unilever — all members of the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition (DSGC), will join forces with A.P. Moller-Maersk to take a tangible step towards the decarbonization of ocean shipping,” said a statement sent to reporters by Maersk’s Africa communication manager Augustine Fischer.

Maersk said a pilot, using up to 20 percent sustainable second-generation biofuels on a large triple-E ocean vessel will sail 25,000 nautical miles from Rotterdam to Shanghai and back on biofuel blends alone, a world’s first at this scale, saving 1.5 million kilos of carbon and 20,000 kilos of sulphur.

The statement further said DSGC members and Maersk had agreed that tackling harmful emissions related to shipping is urgently needed, and that cross-industry collaboration is required to develop, test and implement new solutions.

Members, many of which are customers to Maersk, played a critical role in initiating and sponsoring the pilot. Shell supplied fuel, and Maersk played the role of operating partner.

Experts aver that sustainably sourced second-generation biofuels are just one possible solution for the decarbonisation of ocean shipping.

Longer term breakthroughs in fuel and technical development (i.e. e-fuels) and investment in commercial supply chains are needed to achieve significant emissions reductions, they add. “DSGC companies join in action to contribute to the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs),” said Jan Peter Balkenende, chair of the DSGC.

“With this initiative we focus on Climate Action (SDG 13). We have taken the initiative to partner with A.P. Moller-Maersk on this important effort.” He added that “This pilot testing of biofuel across ocean shipping lane marks an important step. However, many more innovations are urgently needed. These can only be successfully developed, tested and implemented in industry collaborations like this.”

Søren Toft chief operating officer at A.P. Moller–Maersk said the shipping line plans to reach zero carbon emission by 2050.

Norway opens probe into why cruise ship ventured into storm

Source: ByThe Canadian PressMarch 25, 2019

COPENHAGEN — Norwegian officials have opened an investigation into why a cruise ship carrying more than 1,370 people set sail along the country’s often wild western coast despite storm warnings, forcing a major rescue evacuation by helicopter.

Hospital officials have said one person is in critical condition and eight others are still hospitalized after the Viking Sky had engine problems off the Norwegian coast and issued a mayday warning on Saturday afternoon.

The Viking Sky had left the northern city of Tromso and was headed for Stavanger in southern Norway when it ran into trouble.

The ship anchored in heavy seas to avoid being dashed on the rocks in an area known for shipwrecks over the years. Norwegian authorities then launched a daring rescue operation despite the high winds, eventually winching 479 passengers off the ship by helicopter in an operation that went on for hours Saturday night and into Sunday morning.

Dag S. Liseth of Norway’s Accident Investigations Board said “the high risk which the ship, its passengers and crew were exposed to made us decide to investigate the incident.”

The rescue was also hampered when two of the five rescue helicopters helping the Viking Sky had to be diverted to save nine crewmembers from a nearby listing cargo ship.

The rescue workers managed to take a little more than half of the passengers off the cruise ship, but some 900 passengers and crew were still on it when its captain made the decision Sunday just before noon to halt the evacuation.

It is now docked in the Norwegian port city of Molde, 390 kilometres (240 miles) northwest of Oslo, which it limped into Sunday afternoon on its own engines.

Liseth said investigators were headed to Molde on Monday and declined to speculate as to why the Viking Sky captain had decided to sail to Stavanger in the first place despite the intense weather warning. He couldn’t immediately say how long the cruise ship would remain in Molde.

Yngve Skovly, of the police force in Moere and Romsdal district where Molde sits, says there is no suspicion of a criminal offence but police have opened an investigation to find out why the ship had engine problems. That probe would be part of the one by the Accident Investigations Board.

The Viking Sky is a relatively new ship, delivered in 2017 to operator Viking Ocean Cruises.

The ship was on a 12-day cruise along Norway’s coast before its scheduled arrival Tuesday in the British port of Tilbury, on the River Thames. The passengers were mostly an English-speaking mix of American, British, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian citizens.

All the cruise ship passengers were expected to be flown out of Norway by Monday evening, police said.

On Sunday, the operator said the Viking Sky’s next scheduled trip, to Scandinavia and Germany, which was to leave on Wednesday, has been cancelled but no other trip cancellations for the ship were foreseen yet.

Calls to Viking Ocean Cruises on Monday were not immediately returned.

Jan M. Olsen, The Associated Press

Singapore wants robots to run its ports

Interview with Kenneth Lim, Chief Technology Officer of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

Source: Govinsider

How can robot ships patrol Singapore’s harbour; resupply vessels; and guide tankers into port? This is a question on the mind of Kenneth Lim, Chief Technology Officer of Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority.

The view out of his window shows hundreds of container ships queueing to enter the World’s second-busiest port. While currently manned, the entire industry is automating and experimenting with new tech. “Imagine every ship just having one drone, what can they do?” Lim says.

These kinds of questions have always been crucial to Singapore’s port, which has constantly invested and upgraded to retain its global position. Lim shares his vision for the future of the industry; and the challenges that disruption will bring.

An autonomously run port

Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles (UAVs) are at the centre of this transformation. They have the potential to reduce manual labour; handle more dangerous tasks; and increase surveillance for detection of threats.

Drones and robots are able to access places where humans cannot. “We used to tear down the ship to survey the whole tanker. How much time is spent doing this whole survey?” With drones, Lim says, they are able to scan the ship much quicker and easier.

The Port Authority now has a “drone estate” on Marina South where they test out how they can be used in the maritime industry. Airbus and Willhemsen, a global maritime group, are already testing the use of drones to deliver goods from shore to ship without docking.

Lim reveals that the MPA is also looking at using automated tug boats equipped with sensors to detect and collect garbage at sea. This way, a previously time consuming and manual task can be controlled from a single command centre with the touch of a pedal.

Robots are creating jobs 

While there are worries that jobs may become irrelevant due to automation, artificial intelligence is not ready to take over port operations just yet. Lim points out that digitalisation will, in fact, give experienced older workers the ability to keep contributing to the industry.

An example is for sea-weary captains, seafarers, and engineers to work from a command centre instead of being out at sea. “Now we just have dashboard monitor on, and with their seafaring experience, you can tell these engines don’t sound right, don’t look right”. This is only made possible because of digitalisation, he says.

Another area where older workers can contribute is by mentoring tech startups who want to solve problems in the maritime industry, Lim says. “We see a lot of senior workers who actually come forward to become mentors because they have a lot of domain, they have a lot of scenarios that they can tell you different type of requirements.”

Even as automation replaces manual roles in the maritime industry, industry experience still matters in rolling out solutions which work. This is the kind of tech ecosystem which MPA wants to create.

Changing business models with startups

The port industry has a traditional structure, but tech is turning this upside down. Officers can now work with fintech applications to reduce the amount of paperwork required; and partner with healthcare startups to keep tabs on the wellbeing of crew who have spent a long time away from home.

Lim wants to look outside the maritime sector in providing solutions, such as in the use of UAVs. “Drones seem to be very mature on land. But in the sea actually they face a different problem; they cannot land autonomously because of the sea state,” explains the chief technology officer.

“They cannot land autonomously because of the sea state.”

Local Startups can help tackle this problem. “What are the other solutions that are used in other sectors? Or can I have very niche kind of solutions that can be used for specific problems?” These are the kind of questions Lim wants industry players to start asking.

The MPA is bringing the port to startups by “plugging into the bigger startup ecosystem,” with Pier71 (Port Innovation Ecosystem Re-imagined) – a programme which bridges startups with the maritime industry. Lim says it is about creating an environment where you can matchmake startup technology providers to specific pain points in the industry.

Practical steps not theories

Lim wants to bring startups together with experienced older sailors and let them experiment together. He is doing that through his ‘Living Labs’ programme, where workers can try out the latest ideas. “You have all these technology, but you need to bring them down to a level where maritime colleagues can see and feel, “ he says.

Yet a perennial problem may yet hold things back, Lim warns. Cyber security is “the second side of the same coin”. There are so many files and records in the port system, it’s essential to be proactive in stopping data getting hacked.

International cooperation is crucial. Ports share lessons on threats with one another. They can also work to subvert time-sensitive ransomware by making use of different time zones, he says. “This becomes a global community who work together to prevent some of these cyber liabilities or threats from disrupting the whole maritime [industry] because it has a big repercussion to the supply chain, logistics and end users”, he warns.

Cyber risks exist across every industry, however, and it isn’t holding back the MPA. The whole industry is changing where traditional players are feeling the heat – and not just from their competitors, but from customers who are coming up with their own solutions.

He is determined to keep his colleagues in the know, and up to date with the latest tech. “Otherwise they may think that [change] is five years down the road, but actually it’s just six months away”.

Airbus drones deliver first packages to ships offshore


Airbus began shore-to-ship trials in Singapore with its Skyways parcel delivery drone last Friday
Airbus began shore-to-ship trials in Singapore with its Skyways parcel delivery drone last Friday(Credit: Airbus)

As part of its Skyways project, Airbus has kicked off a new drone delivery trial in which its unmanned aircraft of the same name will deposit packages onto ships anchored offshore. Designed to streamline loading operations, it’s hoped the technology now being tested in Singapore will not only speed up delivery times, but offer a greener and safer way of doing business in busy ports.

Airbus is conducting the trials with logistics company Wilhelmsen Ships Services and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. The very first flight took place last Friday, with one of the company’s Skyways parcel delivery drones loaded up with 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) of 3D-printed objects for its first day on the job.

This meant taking off from the shoreline of Singapore’s Marina South Pier and flying autonomously over a distance of 1.5 km (0.93 mi) to a ship anchored off-shore. It then deposited its cargo on deck before completing the return leg, with the entire trip said to take no more than 10 minutes.

“We are thrilled to launch the first trial of its kind in the maritime world,” said Airbus’ Skyways lead, Leo Jeoh. “Today’s accomplishment is a culmination of months of intense preparation by our dedicated team, and the strong collaboration with our partner, as we pursue a new terrain in the maritime industry.”

According to Airbus, the Skyways drone is actually capable of carrying up to 4 kg (8.8 lb) and reaching vessels as far as 3 km (1.86 mi) off shore, traveling through dedicated aerial corridors with autonomous control software.

Airbus is conducting drone delivery trials with logistics company Wilhelmsen Ships Services and the Maritime and...

The remainder of the trials will explore these capabilities, as well as how unmanned aircraft can be put to use in the wider shipping industry to make things run a little smoother. These kinds of supplementary loading procedures could apparently speed up deliveries by up to six times, lower costs by up to 90 percent, help cut down on carbon emissions and also avoid accidents that can occur through typical loading procedures in busy ports.

“Delivery of essential spares, medical supplies and cash to master via launch boat, is an established part of our portfolio of husbandry services, which we provide day in and day out, in ports all over the world,” says Marius Johansen, Vice President Commercial, Ships Agency at Wilhelmsen Ships Services. “Modern technology such as the unmanned aircraft systems, are just a new tool, albeit a very cool one, with which we can push our industry ever forward and improve how we serve our customers.”

Airbus will soon build on these initial flights with further testing of its Skyways drone in urban environments, with trials to kick off “soon” in partnership with the National University of Singapore.

Source: Airbus

Coordinated action to mitigate the effect of a hard Brexit around the port of Rotterdam

Source: Port of Rotterdam

The Port of Rotterdam Authority, the Municipality of Rotterdam, the Municipality of Vlaardingen and highways authority Rijkswaterstaat (Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management), are creating five new buffer parking sites. Trucks will be able to wait here temporarily if their customs documents have not been properly prepared for maritime crossings to the United Kingdom (UK), in the event of the country leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019.

The aim of the coordinated action is to minimise any extra delay resulting from additional customs formalities at ferry and shortsea terminals and to ensure freight traffic to the UK runs as smoothly as possible. After all, additional customs formalities are required for so-called third countries. Additionally, more intensive passport checks and inspections by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority could mean longer processing times at terminals.

The temporary buffer parking sites are marked out on the map. In the unlikely event of this additional capacity being insufficient, the organisations have additional overflow areas in reserve. Moreover, Rijkswaterstaat has been discussing traffic control plans with all parties to make sure it flows efficiently.

Of the approximately 54 million tonnes of freight that is traded annually between the UK and the Netherlands, around 40 million tonnes passes through the port of Rotterdam, and in particular via ferry and shortsea crossings. As soon as Brexit is a fact, the Dutch sea ports will form an outer border between the EU and the UK and this will have major consequences, in particular for the processing of customs papers and passport control.


The Port of Rotterdam Authority and the ferry terminals in Rotterdam jointly arranged for a simulation study to be conducted into the effects of Brexit on the processing of freight traffic at and on the approach to the terminals. Based on historical data, it can be assumed that approximately 400 trucks will not have their formalities in order. The results of this simulation study have allowed a substantiated estimate of the required number of temporary buffer parking places for heavy goods vehicles to be made. The figures mean the authorities can expect that the 700 additional spaces provided at buffer parking sites will be sufficient.

Northern bank buffer parking sites

On the northern bank in Hoek van Holland, the Municipality of Rotterdam has allocated the Oranjeheuvel site. This site is close to the ferry terminal in Hoek van Holland. Rijkswaterstaat is creating space there for around 200 trucks. In Maasdijk, in the municipality of Westland, Rijkswaterstaat has created a buffer site for around 50 trucks. In the municipality of Vlaardingen, a site is being created on Waterleidingstraat for around 80 trucks.

Southern bank buffer parking sites

On the southern bank, buffer parking sites are being created on Moezelweg and Seattleweg by order of the Port of Rotterdam Authority. The site on Moezelweg will provide space for approximately 290 trucks. This site is in the vicinity of the ferry and shortsea terminals that operate out of the Europoort port area. The site on Seattleweg will provide space for approximately 80 trucks. Both sites can easily be reached from the A15 motorway, from both the easterly and westerly directions.

Temporary reception area

The buffer parking sites are only accessible to trucks that have not been given access to the ferry terminals in the port of Rotterdam because the Portbase system has not received prior notification of their cargo. Truck drivers can use these locations to liaise with their client or transport planner and make sure the necessary formalities can yet be completed.

Portbase prevents delay through Dutch ports

The Port Authority, the Municipality of Rotterdam and Rijkswaterstaat are advising exporters, hauliers and shippers to use Portbase to provide digital notification of their cargo that is destined for the UK. Using this Dutch supply chain solution for Brexit, cargo can pass quickly and without unnecessary delay through customs to and from the UK, even after Brexit.