The European project NOVIMAR (NOVel Iwt and MARitime transport concepts) develops the waterborne version of ‘platooning’, the Vessel Train. This is in essence a lead vessel, followed by a series of minimally manned, digitally connected follower vessels. These follower vessels still have their own sailing/manoeuvring capabilities, but are mostly led by the leader vessel. The vessels are able to join and leave the ‘train’ at places adjacent to their point of origin and destination at seaside or inland.
The vessel train concept results in vessels sailing with less (or none) personnel, significantly reducing the operating costs of these vessels. Furthermore, this concept may result in increased economies of scale by making better use of the existing infrastructure. The overall cost reduction will strengthen the competitiveness of the inland navigation sector and, more specifically, improve the economic potential for smaller vessels. The latter will in turn lead to improved access to urban areas with inland vessels, reducing congestion in highly populated areas. The platooning concept also incorporates the idea of short sea and inland waterways chain integration, through the development of innovative concepts for vessel and cargo handling, adding to more logistical flexibility. Finally, the vessel train concept may also result in lower energy use and hence emission levels.
In the NOVIMAR project, the appropriate tools (i.e. smart navigation, command and control) necessary for the digital connection of the vessels in the train are developed. But at the same time, the project also takes the required skill set of employees to operate such a vessel train into account. Furthermore, the project addresses relevant regulatory affairs as well as economic feasibility of the concept, e.g. by carrying out a social cost-benefit analysis based on real life case studies. Finally, NOVIMAR will identify needed boundary conditions for the transport system and ongoing supporting developments in industry and other projects.
More information on this project can be found here.