The business concept of the vessel train organizer was a plan for how revenues were generated and a profitable company would be developed. It also explained which products and services, such as positions (slots) in the vessel train, the vessel train organizer would deliver to the follower vessels. NOVIMAR investigated various business concepts for operating a vessel train.
A transport system is represented by infrastructure, vehicles and operations. The waterborne transport system includes both the sea and inland waterways, including locks and bridges, and deep-sea and inland ports and terminals. The vehicles are sea, sea-river and inland vessels. Operations deal with the way the vessels are operated and the procedures set for this purpose including financing, legalities and policies. NOVIMAR assessed the viability of the vessel train in the total transport system by use of simulation.
The vessel train was foreseen as a combination of a leader vessel and one or more follower vessels. The vessels varied in type, size, and technical specifications. Ships could be be refits or new build vessels optimized for the concept. NOVIMAR assessed economic and logistic viability of the various compositions and researched new ship designs including optimised cargo handling systems.
A vessel train designed for operations in waterways could benefit from developments already underway in other projects or from products produced by technology providers. These were monitored during the project, e.g. dock locking systems, bridge height measurement systems, and river information services.
Introducing vessel train operations in the existing waterborne transport system would improve working conditions for people working in the transport chain and on board the vessel train. Therefore, the need for well-designed automation and human machine interfaces in combination with newly defined skills were investigated.
The vessel train was navigated and manoeuvred by the crew on board of the leader vessel. For this, NOVIMAR developed a user-interface for the control of the course and speed of vessels participating in the vessel train, supported by a communication system between these vessels. In addition an overlay on the navigation chart with detailed information about water depth has been developed. Further, the optimal sailing distance between ships in the vessel train was researched. Finally, particular attention was payed to special operations like docking, passing locks and passing bridges.
Vessel train operations needed to be embedded in the rules and regulations in force for existing waterborne transport systems. This would required an effort of a variety of regulatory bodies and other organisations responsible for safe vessel train operations. NOVIMAR has made an attempt to bring this under their attention in order to make market uptake of the vessel train concept possible.
Vessel train operations have impact on various safety aspects. They concern the safety aspects of the vessels as a platform, the safety of the crew working on board of these vessels and the safety of other vessels and waterway infrastructure.