Wärtsilä to develop autonomous, zero-emission barge for the Port of Rotterdam – gCaptain


Press Release – Wärtsilä is part of an international alliance, led by the Rotterdam Port Authority, which this month received nearly € 25 million in EU funding to implement projects aimed at sustainable and intelligent port logistics. This involves the development of a grand plan that sets out how transport in, to and from ports can be made carbon-free by 2050.

As many green fuels and energy carriers progress, the partners have also initiated a series of digitization and automation projects linked to the energy transition aimed at encouraging companies to improve the sustainability of their logistics.

The research project, nicknamed MAGPIE (sMArt Green Ports as Integrated Efficient multimodal hubs) was born from a collaboration between the port authorities of Rotterdam, DeltaPort (Germany), HAROPA (France: La Havre, Rouen, Paris) and Sines (Portugal ), in partnership with 10 research institutes and more than 30 companies in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Portugal and Denmark.

Wärtsilä, which is MAGPIE’s largest industrial partner, is expected to receive the bulk of the grant for a subproject to demonstrate a commercially viable autonomous intra-port container shuttle to address an emerging capacity bottleneck for the internal transport of containers.

The installation will include many of the latest Wärtsilä solutions; including SmartMove Suite, which offers a unique combination of sensor technology with navigation systems for safe and automated vessel movement. Wärtsilä’s stand-alone solutions have already been successfully tested in the busiest and congested waters, both on complex waterways and in international ports like Singapore. Thus, they can handle a high volume of traffic safely by design.

“We believe that land transport modes will not be able to absorb the emerging bottleneck in capacity for internal movement of containers. We are therefore going to propose a concept of an autonomous electronic barge that can greatly improve the efficiency of the port of Rotterdam thanks to the automated transshipment of sea freight. Our ambition is to see these container shuttles introduced into an intelligent logistics network in the next few years, ”says Hendrik Busshoff, Business Development Engineer at Wärtsilä Voyage.

To raise the level of ambition of such a barge to be not only smart but also emission-free, the electric propulsion will be activated by means of an electric powertrain and a revolutionary interchangeable battery container solution, which is charged using renewable energy.

“At Wärtsilä, we affirm that an autonomy strategy is the key to a zero emission ambition. To complete the implementation of e-navigation, we are part of a consortium that has developed a concept based on the use of replaceable battery containers, called ZESPacks (Zero Emission Services). A network of open access charging points will be set up to exchange battery containers for fully charged replacements, thus reducing waiting time to a minimum. The first of these battery containers will be installed this summer, ”said Teus Van Beek, Managing Director, Ecosystem Innovation, Wärtsilä Marine Systems.

Wärtsilä has drawn on its inland waterway experience to create the most efficient battery containers – something brewer Heineken has already endorsed as a carbon neutral way of transporting 45,000 containers of beer per year to the port of Rotterdam.

“The world’s largest economies have high hopes of solving some of their greenhouse gas problems and infrastructure bottlenecks through smart shipping. Since 2015 and combined with an effort to reduce land transport, the EU has aimed for a 25% increase in short sea shipping by 2030. We believe we can make that happen. Thanks to new technologies, we will transform short sea shipping and inland navigation into a safer, cleaner and more efficient link in the supply chain, with greater accessibility to those who need it. That’s why we automate operations, ”says Sean Fernback, President of Wärtsilä Voyage.

“We are proud to partner with Wärtsilä Voyage and Zero Emission Services (ZES) in the development of stand-alone solutions for intra-port container transshipment. The future of port logistics belongs to smart, connected and sustainable systems like the autonomous electronic barge system that we are now preparing to develop together. We look forward to this very promising collaboration, ”says Ori Marom, Director of Intelligent Mobility and 5G, Port of Rotterdam.

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