EU project ‘AEGIS’ gets NOK 80 million to develop autonomous transport solutions

Published: June 5, 2020

The SINTEF-led AEGIS project will develop automatic logistics solutions for sea and inland waterways. About NOK 32 million goes to Norwegian participants.

The need for greener transport, strain on road systems, traffic noise and dust makes transport by sea and rivers interesting as an alternative to trucks. However, the transition from road freight to shipping is developing slower than desired in both Norway and the rest of Europe.

The European Commission has therefore supported the project “Advanced, Efficient and Green Intermodal Systems” (AEGIS) with NOK 80 million to show that autonomous ships and automated ports can make transport on water much more flexible and user-friendly. AEGIS will make Europe’s transport system greener and more robust, as well as facilitating for environmentally friendly and neighborly ports and harbors, including those in cities.

– The funding of the AEGIS project is a recognition and further strengthening of Norway’s leading position in the development of autonomous shipping. The project’s focus on port operations and cargo handling means that it complements other large Norwegian projects, such as the EU project AUTOSHIP, which mainly looks at the ship, says Vegar Johansen, CEO of SINTEF Ocean in a press release (Norwegian).

The Port of Trondheim (Trondheim Havn) is also a participant in the project. Both Port of Trondheim and SINTEF are members of the Ocean Autonomy Cluster.

AEGIS is a project that is fully in line with our strategy of port development, sustainability and increased transport of goods at sea. For us, it is especially important that this project focuses on the use of smaller and flexible vessels, digitalisation, logistics solutions and port operations. We are really looking forward to work on the AEGIS project, says Terje Meisler, Head of Maritime at Port of Trondheim, in the press release.

The AEGIS use cases are located in North Europe and represent typical short sea transports that need to be linked to local distribution systems. Illustration: AEGIS

– Norway is the global center for innovation and development of autonomous ocean technologies and solutions, and it is inspiring that Trondheim’s cutting-edge environment on ocean autonomy, with key actors such as SINTEF and the Port of Trondheim, are accelerating the much needed transition to more flexible, robust and sustainable transport systems, says Frode Halvorsen, Cluster Manager of the Ocean Autonomy Cluster.

Three test cases
The AEGIS use cases are located in North Europe and represent typical short sea transports that need to be linked to local distribution systems. Case A is led by North Sea Container Lines in cooperation with the the Port of Trondheim. It uses small cargo shuttles to link coastal container ships to rural and urban destinations. Case B is led by DFDS and will link RORO short sea services to inland waterways. Case C in led by Port of Aalborg in cooperation with Port of Vordingborg and will examine how existing ports can use automation to facilitate the transfer of cargo from trucks to sea.

  1. Short sea terminals: Transport from large ports in Europe (e.g. Rotterdam) to smaller destinations along less populated coasts of Europe. This is a LOLO, and mainly container-based transport system. The idea is to use fewer terminals closer to the main fairway to increase main service speed and then shuttle cargo to final destination with small unmanned and preferably autonomous and electric vessels to increase flexibility.
  2. Short sea and inland shipping interface in Belgium and Netherlands: Interface between RORO transport from several North European ports to Rotterdam, Ghent and Zeebrugge and further on with waterway connections to smaller inland destinations in Flanders. The idea is to bring cargo as close to the end destination as possible (final delivery) with smaller zero emission vessels utilizing the benefits of more automation in the concepts being developed.
  3. Revitalizing regional ports and city centre terminals: Due to real estate development at the waterfront, the Danish SME ports in Aalborg and Vordingborg have moved out of the city centres, but is still well located. To be competitive with road transport they need to increase efficiency at its terminals to reduce costs and secure higher frequency by feeders, be competitive at the RORO segment and provide multimodal green logistics solutions combining short-sea shipping with rail transport.

Small ships and inland barges can decongest roads, reduce noise and dust pollution, while operating on batteries or other non-carbon fuels. By automating ports and terminals and use these to integrate larger long distance ship operations with new and smaller ship types, a completely new European transport system can be developed. More flexible and user centric transport, better services to rural as well as urban areas and a revitalization of the regional ports and city terminals is the goal.

Read more about the AEGIS project here.

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