The vessel train will be navigated and manoeuvered 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.
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. In near future the Inland-ECDIS system will develop to a central display for navigation providing additional functions. At the same time major developments in inland shipping will 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 will develop a user-interface. Central part of this interface is the presentation of all relevant information to the supervisor of the vessel train. Furthermore, the system has to transmit the required velocity and position to the control software of each vessel following. These guided tracks will be presented on each following vessel.
A key topic is the communication between the vessels within the vessel train. The guiding vessel will provide trajectories to the following vessels; following vessels might provide an image of the traffic scenario close to them to the guiding vessel. The content of communication will be determined by the participants of the project leading to the development of a reliable and error-free communication between the vessels.
As following ships might have less or even no watchmen on board, it is important that the system knows exactly what is going on in the surrounding of a following vessel. Thus, new sensors and advanced algorithms will be 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 have 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 is essential. NOVIMAR makes use of ongoing development activities focused on gathering detailed information about water depth and other parameters of the waterway derived from measurements of a lot of vessels (www.covadem.org). This information will also be presented to the skippers as an overlay to the chart, providing the leading vessel with the best waterway information available.
In order to operate a vessel train safely and efficiently, the optimal mutual distance and relative position of the ships will be investigated. In addition, the question whether operating in vessel trains can reduce fuel consumption shall be answered.
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.