Germany's first centre for remote-controlled inland navigation opened

29 Feb 2024 11:00 Digitalization

SEAFAR, the Belgian tech and service provider specializing in remote-controlled and crew-reduced inland navigation, has established Germany's inaugural Remote Operations Centre in collaboration with project partners HGK Shipping and Reederei Deymann. The center in Duisburg was officially inaugurated on February 28th, with key figures from politics, authorities, and industry in attendance. This center will facilitate the remote control of vessels on inland waterways, addressing the shortage of skilled personnel. Efforts are underway to leverage existing permits for the Lower Rhine trial and to designate additional waterways for this innovative solution. For example, they are currently in the application phase for sections of the canal in north-west Germany, as well as the Mittellandkanal and other sections of the Rhine.

In Belgium and the Netherlands, similar crew-reduced concepts are already in successful operation for various types of inland waterway vessels, some of which will now be managed from the new SEAFAR site in Duisburg-Ruhrort. "Expanding into the inland waterways of Europe's largest economy marks a significant milestone for our company," says Janis Bargsten, Chief Commercial Officer at SEAFAR. "In collaboration with our partners HGK Shipping and Reederei Deymann, who have collectively equipped five vessels for this project so far, we aim to contribute substantially to modernizing transportation and the profession."

"As a leading inland shipping company in Europe, we consider ourselves catalysts for industry development, whether in constructing new, eco-friendly vessels or adopting innovative solutions that align with the digitalization trend. Meeting ambitious climate targets in the coming years and decades necessitates a significant shift towards inland shipping and waterway freight transport," emphasizes Steffen Bauer, CEO of HGK Shipping. "Under the banner of 'More climate protection despite a shortage of skilled workers,' this technological advancement, enabling partial ship control from shore-based operations centers, is poised to secure long-term transport solutions via this vital mode of transit."

Martin Deymann, Managing Director of Reederei Deymann, weighs in on the industry's challenge of attracting new talent to ensure the smooth transport of goods: "Remote control from shore can greatly enhance the appeal of the profession. The improved work-life balance afforded by working closer to home serves as a compelling incentive to either remain or enter the field of inland navigation. The Remote Operations Centre, coupled with increased digitalization, will inject much-needed vitality into this longstanding profession."

The Remote Operations Centre in Duisburg currently hosts three workstations for remote control operators, acting as skippers, and one workstation for the Traffic Controller, overseeing vessel movements in the background and serving as a primary point of contact. Equipped with cutting-edge IT infrastructure meeting the highest security standards, captains will be able to remotely navigate inland waterway vessels using control systems modeled on a driver's cab, alongside an extensive camera network. Project partners are collaborating closely with relevant authorities and agencies to gradually expand necessary licenses for operation across Germany's inland waterway network.

SEAFAR, headquartered in Antwerp, specializes in the technology and services for manned and remote-controlled navigation of inland waterway vessels. The company develops and operates state-of-the-art technologies for highly automated and crew-reduced navigation, monitoring and operating unmanned and crew-reduced vessels via Remote Operations Centres, with a focus on efficient and safe operations.

Stakeholders involved:

SEAFAR's technology offers a solution to the growing shortage of skilled labour and an opportunity to improve the competitiveness of inland navigation. This results in expediting the development of a new breed of automated, eco-friendly vessels.

HGK Shipping is the leading barge operator in Europe. With a fleet of more than 350 owned and chartered barges, the company transports around 42 million tonnes of freight per year. Focusing on the Rhine and its tributaries as well as the connected canal system, HGK Shipping connects the most important industrial regions in the BENELUX countries, France and Germany. HGK Shipping GmbH is a leading partner in the areas of dry goods, gas, liquid chemicals and ship management.

Reederei Deymann, founded in 1992 by Martin Deymann, is an outstanding example of success and innovation in the inland shipping industry. With an impressive fleet of 52 modern tank/cargo and container vessels, the company has established itself as a leading provider in Germany. Under the leadership of Martin Deymann, the company has continued to expand and diversify, with a strong focus on quality, safety and environmental protection. The company is renowned for its tailor-made transport solutions and its unwavering commitment to outstanding customer service. With a clear vision and a strong team, Reederei Deymann has positioned itself as a reliable partner for fast, economical and environmentally conscious transport on European waterways, underlining its position as an industry leader.

Germany's first remote control centre allows inland waterway vessels to be controlled from land.

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