Autonomous, zero-emission barge to be developed by Wärtsilä for Port of Rotterdam

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An international alliance, headed by the Port of Rotterdam Authority and including Wärtsilä,has recently been awarded almost €25m (US$30m) in EU funding to complete a series of sustainable and smart port logistics projects. As part of a wider plan, authorities aim to make transportation into and out of ports a completely carbon-free operation by 2050. As various green fuels and energy carriers are advanced, the partners in the group have also initiated a series of digitalization and automation projects to encourage businesses to improve their logistics’ sustainability.

Nicknamed MAGPIE (sMArt Green Ports as Integrated Efficient multimodal hubs), the research project results from a collaboration between the port authorities of Rotterdam, DeltaPort in Germany, HAROPA in France and Sines in Portugal, working with 10 research institutions and more than 30 other companies in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Portugal and Denmark.

Wärtsilä will receive the largest portion of the grant for a sub-project to demonstrate a commercially viable autonomous intra-port inter-terminal container shuttle to counter an emerging capacity bottleneck for internal container transportation.

The project will see Wärtsilä installing some of its latest solutions, including its SmartMove Suite, which offers the pairing of sensor tech with navigation systems for safe, automated ship movement.

“We believe that overland transport modes will not be able to absorb the emerging capacity bottleneck for internal container movement,” commented Hendrik Busshoff, business development engineer, Wärtsilä Voyage.

“So, we will be delivering an autonomous e-barge concept that can greatly enhance efficiency in the Port of Rotterdam through automated seaborne cargo transshipment. Our ambition is to see these container shuttles introduced into a smart logistics network within the next few years.”

Vessel propulsion will be provided by an electric drivetrain and a new interchangeable battery container solution – charged using renewable power.

“At Wärtsilä, we maintain that an autonomy strategy is key to a zero-emission ambition. To complement the e-navigation set up, we are part of a consortium that has developed a concept based on the use of replaceable battery containers, known as ZESPacks (Zero Emission Services),” explained Teus Van Beek, general manager, ecosystem innovation, Wärtsilä Marine Systems. “A network of open access charging points will be set up for exchanging battery containers for fully charged replacements, thereby keeping waiting time to a minimum. The first of these battery containers will be installed in the summer.”

Drawing upon its experience of inland waterway projects, Wärtsilä has created a set of battery containers, which brewer Heineken will use as a carbon-neutral way of transporting 45,000 containers of beer annually up to the Port of Rotterdam.

“The world’s largest economies have high hopes of resolving some of their greenhouse gas challenges and their infrastructure bottlenecks with smart shipping,” commented Sean Fernback, president, Wärtsilä Voyage.

“Since 2015 and combined with an effort to reduce ground transportation, the EU has targeted a 25% increase in cargo transportation by short sea shipping before 2030. We feel we can enable this. Utilizing new technology, we will change short sea and inland shipping into a safer, cleaner and more efficient link in the logistic chain, with greater accessibility to those who need it. That’s why we are automating operations.”

Ori Marom, director of smart mobility and 5G, Port of Rotterdam, said, “We are proud to partner with Wärtsilä Voyage and Zero Emission Services (ZES) in the development of autonomous solutions for intra-port container transshipment. The future of port logistics belongs to intelligent connected and sustainable systems such as the autonomous e-barge system that we now set to develop together. We very much look forward to this highly promising collaboration.”

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After spending six years working as a mechanic for various motorsport and high-end performance car companies, Callum joined UKi Media & Events in February 2020 as an assistant editor. In this role he uses his vast practical knowledge and passion for automotive to produce informative news pieces for multiple vehicle-related sectors.

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