Automation of inland shipping

SciPPPer - the lock assistance system

DLR involved in the SCIPPPER lock assistance system

First automated lock entry of an inland waterway vessel

Entering locks is one of the most challenging maneuvers in inland navigation. In the future, ships will be able to enter locks automatically to ensure the safety of people, ships and infrastructure even under difficult conditions. Scientists at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have developed a technology for high-precision satellite-based positioning of inland waterway vessels. In a real-life demonstration in the SCIPPPER project, an automated lock entry was successfully carried out for the first time.

With a typical lock width of 12 meters and a ship width of 11.4 meters, there are only a few centimeters of side clearance. Such maneuvers therefore require absolute precision and maximum concentration, even for experienced skippers. In addition, poor visibility due to the weather can make locking a major challenge. It is not uncommon for this to result in damage to the ship and lock.

In the SCIPPPER joint project funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) and led by the company Argonics GmbH, the DLR Institute of Communications and Navigation, together with its partners Alberding GmbH, Argonav GmbH, the Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute (BWA), Weatherdock AG and the Federal Office for Traffic Engineering (WSV), has developed an assistance system for automated lock navigation. During test runs in Strasbourg on the MS Victor Hugo, it was demonstrated that the position and attitude of a ship can be determined with an accuracy of up to ten centimetres, even under the difficult environmental conditions of a lock.

SciPPPer - Schleusenassistenzsystem basierend auf PPP und VDES für die Binnenschifffahrt
Locking is one of the most frequent but also most critical maneuvers in inland navigation. Typical for the waterways in Germany is the situation where an 11.40 m wide ship enters a 12 m wide lock chamber. The main aim of automating this process is to increase the ease and safety of shipping traffic. The technological basis for the new assistance system is the provision of reliable and highly accurate information on the position, attitude and speed of the barge by evaluating signals from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) using the Precise Point Positioning (PPP) method. In all scenarios, the assistance system reduced the perceived level of difficulty of the nautical task. The intensity of the engine commands and the speed of the maneuvers were also assessed as balanced. In extreme scenarios, the system mastered the tasks somewhat faster and with fewer 'failed attempts'. In February 2022, a large number of lock entries and exits were successfully completed with the passenger ship MS Victor Hugo from the CroisiEurope shipping company.

BAW - Bundesanstalt für Wasserbau

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