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Autonomous-ship project receives EUR 20.1 million in EU funding

A new Norwegian project that will see KONGSBERG Group install and test autonomous technology on two vessels in different operational environments has received almost EUR 20.1 million, equivalent to NOK 200 million, in EU funding.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"} The grant is from Horizon 2020, an EU research programme and marks one of the largest grants ever given to Norwegian players.

AUTOSHIP, a four-year Horizon 2020* project, is a collaboration between KONGSBERG and Norway's leading research organisation, SINTEF, as well as several European partners. The Research Council of Norway is also providing support.

The aim of the project is to test and further 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 cybersecurity and integrating the vessels into upgraded e-infrastructure.

One of the vessels that will be equipped for remote-operated and autonomous maritime transport is the Eidsvaag Pioneer. 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. This 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 in operation is expected to take around 7,500 trucks off the roads each year and will result in reductions in both traffic congestion and emissions.

"The Norwegian maritime cluster, of which KONGSBERG is a part, is the world leader in autonomous shipping. Now we are further strengthening our position through the AUTOSHIP project, which will accelerate the realisation of next-generation autonomous ships and create a roadmap for commercialising autonomous shipping in the EU in the next five years," said Egil Haugsdal, CEO of Kongsberg Maritime.

“The AUTOSHIP project gives Northern Europe, with Norway, a leading edge in developing the next generation of autonomous vessels. The race is underway internationally. The technology contributes to safer, more efficient and sustainable operations at sea, both in transport and aquaculture. The project will now receive one of the largest allocations ever made from the EU's Horizon 2020 program to a Norwegian player. This is a NOK 200 million mark of quality," said Iselin Nybø, Norway's minister of research and higher education.

The markets for both short sea coastal shipping and transport on inland waterways are expected to dramatically expand in the next few years, both in Norway, Europe, and worldwide.

"We will demonstrate that it is possible to remotely operate several ships from land and over large geographical areas. The technology is used in different ways on the vessel to show that the solutions can be applied widely. This is a market with a significant potential," said Mr Haugsdal.

"We will contribute by developing cloud-based communications systems and advanced simulations to test and ensure that the autonomous vessels operate safely and optimally," continued Hege Skryseth, the CEO of Kongsberg Digital.

"There is increasing market demand for waterborne transport in the EU. The results of the AUTOSHIP project will lead to safer and greener transport in Europe with one of the major outcomes being a shift of goods transport from roads to waterways," said Mr Haugsdal.

* This project has received funding from Horizon 2020, an EU research and innovation programme, under grant agreement no. 815012. {/mprestriction}

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    By partnering with NPL, LR will enhance the delivery of its services and assurance in marine autonomy and gain access to a wide range of knowledge and expertise developed in other aligned domains.

    LR and NPL are currently working together to deliver a scope of services to the THEMIS Project, to demonstrate the feasibility for the world’s largest ocean-going autonomous vessel, which is part funded by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s (MPA) Maritime Innovation and Technology (MINT) fund.

    NPL’s head of Digital, Neil Stansfield, said: “The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is excited by the opportunities presented in this collaboration with Lloyd’s Register, where the two organisations complementary capabilities are well suited to addressing the challenge of assuring marine autonomous systems. This work represents an important part of the UK’s national programme to deliver confidence in the intelligent and effective use of data, which is being conducted with a range of partners across sectors and with a specific focus on autonomous systems. NPL is applying a combination of measurement skills, expertise and experience, in areas as diverse as sensor characterisation, data quality and AI validation, to support partners in the development of new tests, standards and regulations for the safety of autonomous systems. This collaboration with Lloyd’s Register will help ensure the UK maintains its global leadership in the marine services Sector, where the autonomous shipping sector is expected to represent a global $52bn market opportunity by 2050.”

    Tim Kent, LR technical director for Marine and Offshore said: “This collaboration with the NPL will allow LR to improve our own processes, knowledge and competency to better support our clients with marine autonomy projects. We are delighted to be partnering with NPL given its domain knowledge on autonomy from the connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) domains.”

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