Norway’s Kongsberg Maritime has completed a live trial of an autonomous vessel in Bornem, Belgium.

The test vessel, Zulu 4, an inland waterway barge owned by Blue Line Logistics NV, is equipped for remote-operated and autonomous transport demonstrations for the Autoship project, which is part of Horizon 2020, a European Union research programme.

As part of the test, the Zulu 4 manoeuvred and navigated on unrestricted waterways, while it demonstrated berthing and unberthing capability. To achieve this, the vessel was upgraded with onboard control technology, while an onshore remote operation centre (ROC) provided support.

A safety crew was onboard the vessel during the test.

The Zulu 4 completed a 16.5-kilometre circuit starting from a port in Niel on the Rupel River. The vessel entered a busy sea canal before traversing locks and passing several bridges as well as a yacht club and marina.

Kongsberg technologies used in the trial included Autodocking, Autocrossing and automatic navigation systems. The company has also developed cloud-based communications systems and advanced simulations to test and ensure that the vessel operated safely and optimally.

This live trial of the technology follows from another demonstration of autonomous ship technology on May 25 in Alesund, Norway, in which a cargo vessel, Eidsvaag Pioneer, completed a range of tasks autonomously.

Both the vessels Zulu 4 and Eidsvaag Pioneer are equipped with remote and fully autonomous operation technology as part of the Autoship project.

Autoship, a project to test and develop fully autonomous navigation systems, among others, is a collaboration between Kongsberg Maritime and Norway’s research organisation, Sintef, as well as several European partners.

“We are delighted with the performance of the Zulu 4 on what is a challenging route through the busy Belgian waterways. The course that the ZULU 4 completed provided an opportunity to test our technology in a real-life situation, where numerous manoeuvres were performed successfully and safely,” says Pål André Eriksen, Senior Vice President, Remote & Autonomous Solutions, of Kongsberg Maritime.