The business concept of the vessel train organizer is a plan for how revenues will be generated and a profitable company will be developed. It also explains which products and services, such as positions (slots) in the vessel train, the vessel train organizer will deliver to the follower vessels. NOVIMAR will investigate 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 will assess the viability of the vessel train in the total transport system by use of simulation.
The vessel train is foreseen as a combination of a leader vessel and one or more follower vessels. The vessels may vary in type, size, and technical specifications. Ships may be refits or new build vessels optimized for the concept. NOVIMAR will assess economic and logistic viability of the various compositions and will research new ship designs including optimised cargo handling systems. There are many possible combinations of ships that can form a vessel train.
A vessel train designed for operations in waterways will benefit from developments already underway in other projects or from products produced by technology providers. Examples are dock locking systems, bridge height measurement systems, and river information services. These developments are out of scope of NOVIMAR but will be identified in support of assessing the opportunities of the concept.
Introducing vessel train operations in the existing waterborne transport system will 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 can be expected.
The vessel train will be navigated and manoeuvred by the crew on board of the leader vessel. For this, NOVIMAR will develop 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 will be developed. Further, the optimal sailing distance between ships in the vessel train will be researched. Finally, particular attention will be payed to special operations like docking, passing locks and passing bridges.
Vessel train operations need to be embedded in the rules and regulations in force for existing waterborne transport systems. This will require an effort of a variety of regulatory bodies and other organisations responsible for safe vessel train operations. NOVIMAR will make an attempt to bring this under their attention in order to make future market uptake of the vessel train concept possible. It must be noted that similar action is needed to support the development of other innovative waterborne concepts.
Vessel train operations will 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.