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NOVel Iwt and MARitime transport concepts

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - NOVIMAR (NOVel Iwt and MARitime transport concepts)

Reporting period: 2020-06-01 to 2021-11-30

NOVIMAR strives to introduce a new waterborne transportation concept that can make optimal use of existing short-sea, sea-river and inland waterways, thus expanding the entire waterborne transport chain up and into the urban environment. To achieve this aim, the concept of a vessel train is investigated. Such a vessel train consists of one fully manned leader vessel and a number of follower vessels, operating with a reduced crew.

Waterborne transport is a major enabler to reduce or resolve the stagnation in transport infrastructures such as ports and terminals, and the road networks. HORIZON 2020 topic MG-2.3-2016 1 states that “Short sea, river and canal transport can offer particular opportunities (…) in terms of operations (…) that can improve safety and address current employment challenges and the competitiveness of SMEs in the sector”.

To exploit these opportunities waterborne transport needs to overcome “the traditional barriers between transport modes” and “(…) to work on the (…) expansion and optimisation of the entire (waterborne) transport chain, including in the urban environment”. The specific challenge is “bringing waterborne much deeper into multi-modal transport concepts, in particular to the benefit of domestic shipping and inland navigation”.

To address this challenge, NOVIMAR’s main objectives have been defined as:
• Defining a new waterborne transport system based on vessel train operations. This was developed by use of a transport simulation model and performance indicators for full cost-benefit analysis. Further attention has been given to operational aspects and human factors.
• Providing command and control systems for the vessel train and a navigational aid providing an actual river map including water depths.
• Developing new concepts for roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo systems and vessels.
• Developing a vessel train handbook.

Conclusions of the action
NOVIMAR has reached its promised objectives and key results showing the vessel train concept is technically possible (TRL-6 achieved) and can be economically feasible in the foreseable future, provided the remaining hurdles as outlined in the below recommendations are addressed. Several partial results are exploitable in a short to medium timeframe as outlined in the description of the main results.
NOVIMAR has reached its promised objectives and key results based on the following general outcomes:
• NOVIMAR has delivered an innovative and coherent logistic system as illustrated in several public deliverables and graphic presentations which can be accessed through the project website (
• Although the Vessel Train (VT) as such may not come in operation in the near future, intermediate project results will find their way to the market.
• The simulation model for transport system and the supporting performance indicator’s will not be commercialised but are readily available for governmental or other organisations for specific research questions;
• The recommendations on aspects of regulations, working conditions, safety and training have been formulated based on the outcome of expert opinion and simulations carried out by experienced skippers, whilst having the ships operating in the VT as the focussing concept. These insights are valuable for a variety of stakeholders active in the development of remote and fully autonomous ship operations.
• The technology to navigate ships in a convoy has been proven and has the potential for a near future commercial product not necessary for operation in Vessel Trains Elements are already in operation on inland vessels.
• The Technology to advise inland vessel skippers on actual and up to six days predicted water depth on inland waterways has successfully been commercialised, forming the base for new functionalities in support of optimal cargo and transit planning.
• The design of five RORO cargo vessels, RORO Cross Transfer Platform (CTP) and the Cargo Handling Vehicle (CHV) mutually reinforce each other opening opportunities to optimize cargo transport in areas with e.g. little available shore infrastructure, periods of extreme low water or in support of congested deep sea ports.
• The NOVIMAR VT handbook (available through the project website) is expected to set the future standard for an attractive way of presenting the results of an EU funded project, even after the project has finished. The VT handbook will be kept up and running for two years, monitored by NMT.
From a technical point of view, NOVIMAR has developed a command and control system that enables the operation of vessel trains at sea and on inland waters. In addition a real time water depth information system for rivers as overlay on the electronic chart has been developed. This helps skippers to decide on the amount of cargo that (inland) ships can transport based on real-time water depth information. These technologies create business opportunities for transporting goods with vessels that are (partially) unmanned and controlled by a manned lead vessel.

From a transport chain and economical point of view, NOVIMAR has delivered an Overarching Decision Aiding Model. This model has been used in the project to assess the different variants of the vessel train, using NOVIMAR transport models and defined performance indicators. In this assessment particular attention has been given to operations with smaller ships that transport goods on smaller rivers and canals into urban areas and assess the vessel train economic potential against other modalities like road and rail. As a final outcome, the analyses done with this model have lead to a vessel train handbook that enables potential users to assess if and how they can successfully apply a vessel train for specific transport scenarios.

From a ship design point of view NOVIMAR is has delivered guidelines for vessels and cargo systems to be used in the vessel train transport system, as well as a systematic analysis of crew tasks onboard short sea ships, which assists in quantifying potential for crew reductions through the automation of several ship tasks.

From a societal point of view NOVIMAR has delivered additional insights in safety issues related to the exploitation of vessel trains under operational circumstances and the required human skills to operate these trains, including the safety and cyber security issues involved in remote control of ships.
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