Navigating and manoeuvering the vessel train

The vessel train was navigated and manoeuvered by the crew on board of the leader vessel. For this, NOVIMAR will 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 was developed.

Developments in waterborne navigation systems.
Modern Electronic Chart Display Information Systems (ECDIS) combine navigation information as radar, Inland-ECDIS chart and Automatic Identification System (AIS) in one display. The Inland-ECDIS system could be developed into a central display for navigation providing additional functions. Major developments in inland shipping provide assistance functions to the skipper to support him in his work, raising the level of automation and autonomy of ship guidance.

Control of the course and speed
In order to control the course and speed of the vessels participating in the vessel train, NOVIMAR developed a user-interface. Central part of this interface was the presentation of all relevant information to the supervisor of the vessel train. Furthermore, the system had to transmit the required velocity and position to the control software of each vessel following. These guided tracks were presented on each following vessel.

A key topic was the communication between the vessels within the vessel train. The guiding vessel provided trajectories to the following vessels. The content of communication was determined by the participants of the project leading to the development of a reliable and error-free communication between the vessels.

Situational awareness
As following ships might have less or even no watchmen on board, it was important that the system knows exactly what is going on in the surrounding of a following vessel. Thus, new sensors and advanced algorithms were necessary to reach a new level of situational awareness, able to detect a small pleasure craft approaching a following vessel. In case of critical situations, actions had to be taken, either from the leading or the following vessel.

Water depth information
To safely guide a vessel train, actual and accurate information about the waterway was essential. NOVIMAR made use of ongoing development activities focussing on gathering detailed information about water depth and other parameters of the waterway derived from measurements of a lot of vessels ( This information was also presented to the skippers as an overlay to the chart, providing the leading vessel with the best waterway information available.

Sailing distance
In order to operate a vessel train safely and efficiently, the optimal mutual distance and relative position of the ships was investigated. In addition, the question whether operating in vessel trains could reduce fuel consumption was answered.

Special manoeuvres
During the transit of the vessel train from its port of departure to its destination special manoeuvres are necessary like passing bridges or locks. When arriving or departing at ports or in waiting areas, the vessel train has to be moored or unmoored. Finally pre-planned responses are needed in case of calamities.

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