Autonomous Shipping Tested in North Sea Trials


The first autonomous manoeuvring vessel trials as part of the ‘Joint Industry Project Autonomous Shipping’ have been held on the North Sea.

The two-year research and innovation project led by Netherlands Maritime Technology (NMT) began in 2017, and is being supported by a consortium of stakeholders such as Damen Shipyards, SeaZip Offshore Service and Robosys Automation.

A recent Port Technology technical paper from the World Maritime University explored the future of shipping

Marnix Krikke, Innovation Director at NMT, said: “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.”



The trials conducted on the North Sea demonstrated how the decision-making processes of an autonomous ship ensure safe sailing and prevent collisions with other vessels.

The system which guides the smart vessel, provided by Robosys Automation, is connected to the on-board autopilot and machinery control system and can perform “evasive manoeuvres” in a safe way.

While the tests were deemed successful, they also highlighted that autonomous systems must be developed further to efficiently handle more complex marine traffic situations.



In order to continue the progress of autonomous shipping, a roadmap is being built which will define the lessons learned, obstacles faced and technology required to realize smart vessel aims.

Mark van der Star, Managing Partner at collaborating organization SeaZip Offshore Service, commented: “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.”

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