Short sea (coastal) shipping is important to north-west Europe, and to the Netherlands in particular. Both regional transportation of goods in Europe and the redistribution of cargo from large ocean liners is performed by short sea ships. Many short sea ships are built at Dutch shipyards, and various large ship-owning companies own and operate large fleets of these vessels and operate them within European waters and beyond.
The Dutch ferries service sector is considered an important mode of passenger transport, mainly on inland waterways and at sea. Ferries are therefore an important link between the shore and the water for commuters, schoolchildren and recreational users. Most of these ferries are built at Dutch shipyards and are operated by public operators as well as private companies. The goal is to have an inland ferry fleet by 2030 for which autonomous sailing is no longer an unknown factor; a sector for which autonomous sailing is normalised and consequently safer and more efficient in its operations.
Inland cargo shipping refers to the transport of goods on inland waterways in the Netherlands and across our borders. In 2030, inland shipping is to have reached a level of automation described as “Human-Assisted Autonomy” (stage 3 in IMO, level 4 in CCR). We expect 25% of the total Dutch fleet of inland ships to have reached this level of automation by 2030.
Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) are perhaps the most visible smart shipping applications to date in the Netherlands. Several developers of USVs and USV technology are commercially successful in the Netherlands, and various dredging and offshore instruction companies in the Netherlands are already starting to use USVs in their daily operation.
In the context of this roadmap, we define USVs as small vessels (<20 m for inland vessels, <24 m for seagoing vessels). Unmanned Surface Vessels are, as the name implies, not equipped for the carriage of people, so small autonomous ferries are not meant in this sense. Ferries have their own challenges and different market drivers, which are described in the inland ferry use case.
Although a lot of USV technology is developed and used in a military context, this roadmap focuses on civilian applications of USVs.