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. NOVIMAR will research these aspects.
Opportunities erasing from vessel train operations
Vessel train operations offer opportunities for increasing the sailing time of ships as control of follower vessels is handed over to the leader vessel. It then depends on whether the follower vessel is manned or unmanned. If they remain manned during the transit, crews on the follower vessels can spend their time to take some rest or to perform other tasks such as maintenance, whilst the leader vessel navigates the vessel train to its destination.
It can be expected that technology will create a further move towards fully integrated shipborne navigation and platform systems connected to shore support systems. Remote monitoring of critical shipborne systems like propulsion will provide opportunities to reduce crew sizes to an acceptable minimum and on the other hand will create new jobs to operate these shore support systems.
Handing over the control of a follower vessel creates a shift of responsibilities and workload to the crew of the leader vessel. Compared to the situation when a ship is towed by a tug boat this is not a new mechanism, however the vessel train is operated by remote control operations. This will require much attention of the leader vessels crew as each follower ship must be told “what to do”. In order to limit their workload, support from well-designed automation and human machine interfaces must be available.
Further this type of supervision will be different from the activity performed today, where only one vessel is driven, and “directly”, i.e. with a classical steering system and wheel.
Vessel train crews can be confronted with stress due to the larger consequences in case of something going wrong: the supervising crew will be responsible for all the followers. In such situations compared to the today situation with only one ship, the consequence will be multiplied by the number of ships. Hence, ways to reduce this stress will be investigated.
Procedures for special manoeuvres like passing locks or berthing alongside a quay are needed to support the vessel train operations. When pre-planned the vessel train crew may rely on shore support organisations; for unplanned situations solutions will be researched.
Based on the outcome of the most promising water transport system, required skills will be identified.