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 were 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. There were many possible combinations of ships that can form a vessel train.
Ship types and sizes
Depending on the navigation area, the vessel train consisted of inland ships, sea-river ships or short sea ships with a low design draught and low air draught (height of the ship above the waterline) in order to enable them to navigate on rivers too. Each of these types existed in various sizes.
Composition of the vessel train.
The vessel train consisted of a different number of ships that could be identical, similar or very different. The lead ship could be a modified cargo ship or a ship without a cargo hold (floating & moving control station). Follower ships could be dedicated follower ships, ships that could also sail as conventional vessels outside the train or ships that could also perform the role of lead ship if required. The ships could be refits or new build vessels that were optimized to sail with full crew, reduced crew or no crew.
Number of ships
In theory the number of ships in the vessel train could range from two to dozens. However the number of ships in the train had impact on the complexity of operations and control of the vessel train. This was especially true when sizes and manoeuvring characteristics of the individual ships differed.
Design of ships
Ships have a long lifespan that may stretch well over 20 years. Dedicated new build ships would eventually lead to more competitive vessel trains because they could be optimized for reduced or unmanned operations. And further unnecessary human-operator-related components and spaces could be left out of the design. Implementing them would, however, be a long-term activity. To bridge the transition period, retrofitted conventional ships were important to consider.
From this broad range of possibilities, NOVIMAR first narrowed down the most promising vessel train compositions and then performed more detailed analyses on these compositions.