On 29 October 2018, the Institute for the Protection of Maritime Infrastructures of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) was opened in Bremerhaven. Operating against the backdrop of the Energy Transition, digitalisation, innovative mobility and global connectivity, the new institute will focus on the task of protecting vital infrastructures such as ports and offshore wind farms against accidents and terrorist or other attacks. It is the first of its kind in Europe.
Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, emphasised the importance of the Institute: “Maritime infrastructures are vital to Germany as a business location. Ninety percent of imports and exports are transported by sea. Power supply from offshore wind farms is also increasing. For these reasons, protecting maritime infrastructures is as important for the economy as it is for the general public. The new DLR institute will focus all of its efforts and expertise on addressing this task.”
The new Institute will concentrate its scientific and technical developments on increasing the resilience of maritime infrastructures – that is, on their ability to withstand disruption without failing. All of the development work is aimed at identifying – and defending against – threats to the infrastructure. In doing so, the Institute will expand DLR’s current competencies in technology development and maritime security.
Autonomous underwater vehicle
One of the institute's first acquisitions will be an autonomous underwater vehicle designed to test newly developed optical and acoustic sensor systems for the monitoring and inspection of maritime infrastructures.
"DLR already possesses research excellence in the fields of aeronautics, space, energy and transport, security and digitalisation. With our new institute, we are adding a further dimension – the protection of maritime infrastructures – both on and under water," says Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board.
One of the Institute’s future tasks will be to assess the safety and security status of maritime infrastructures with the aim of safeguarding their performance capabilities in the long term. For instance, offshore wind farms are an essential element for the implementation of the Energy Transition and thus the phasing out of nuclear power and fossil fuels. Their operability must be ensured for this purpose. Maintenance work must be performed on time and in such a way that collisions between the work vessels and the wind park infrastructure are avoided. In this regard, sensors that are already being used to ensure operational safety will also be deployed to protect against possible attacks.
"In future, DLR will develop innovative technologies for the protection of maritime infrastructures and bring them to market maturity. Industry and society as a whole will therefore benefit from DLR’s proven innovation and transfer competencies in this field," said Norbert Brackmann, German Federal Government Coordinator for the Maritime Industry. Rescue at sea is another area to which the new Institute will contribute: "We want to develop new sensors that detect shipwrecked persons and enable their rescue – even at night and in foggy conditions," explains Dennis Göge, founding director of the new institute.
The new DLR institute will initially have 20 employees, which will increase to as many as 60. Five million euro will be invested in the research infrastructure at the site in Bremerhaven. In future, the annual budget should amount to 6 million euro, 4.5 million of which will be provided by the federal and state governments, while the rest will be obtained from third-party funding.
"Through the establishment of the new institute in Bremerhaven, DLR is significantly expanding its presence in the State of Bremen. Once again, Bremen is confirming its prominent position and attractiveness as a hub of science. And once again, this demonstrates how crucial port locations and the protection of their maritime infrastructures are for Germany's economy," says Carsten Sieling, Mayor of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.
The new institute will cooperate closely with the Federal Police in the fulfilment of its remit, and, in future, will expand this collaboration to include other government agencies and organisations entrusted with security tasks. Furthermore, it will work with non-governmental organisations like the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (DGzRS) and the wider business community.
From the start, the Institute established a working group to conduct research into societal and ethical issues, as well as the acceptance of new technologies, in order to live up to its responsibilities in these areas.