Ship Operation

Increasing the efficiency of maritime transport, reducing environmental impact and improving safety are important and often interconnected goals in ship operation. Fraunhofer's research focuses on these challenges, for example, by developing technologies for the automation of maritime traffic and maneuvers, as well as IT solutions for the maritime industry of tomorrow.

Improved efficiency can often be achieved by optimizing processes on board and along the maritime transport chain. The digitalisation of maritime shipping increasingly allows for optimised maintenance and repair strategies on board in conjunction with improved crew deployment planning. Through the digital exchange of information among all stakeholders, transhipment and transport processes and also repair operations can be planned and coordinated at an early stage.

The observation, investigation and treatment of marine environmental situations has reached a new level through the development of autonomous and remote-controlled unmanned vehicles. With their support, ship hulls, structures, but also the seabed are recorded and documented. First solutions for the collection of underwater waste are in the process of development.

Growing ship sizes and infrastructures as well as increasing ship traffic in confined sea areas more often lead to dangerous situations. The development of autonomous technologies and the improvement of maritime communication help the crew to analyse critical situations early and to react appropriately. On board and in port, the use of virtual and augmented reality helps to test and implement new maneuvers.

Autonomous technologies for maritime navigation

© Vincent Schneider, Fraunhofer CML
Autonomously operating research boats serve as research platforms for maritime innovations

Autonomous technologies serve, for example, as an assistance system for the ship's crew. Navigation systems indicate dangerous situations at an early stage and, if necessary, suggest evasive manoeuvres. Ship's own sensors and external sources, such as the AIS system, serve as sources of information. Thanks to innovative assistance systems, unmanned inspection vehicles can also carry out independent operations autonomously or remotely above and below the water surface.



Project examples

RoboVaaS - Robotic Vessels as-a-Service: Offering new services for shipping by integrating and networking smaller unmanned surface and remotely operated underwater vehicles. (Fraunhofer CML)

IT solutions for fleet management, communication and data evaluation

© Fraunhofer CML
The crew planning software SCEDAS is based on mathematical optimization

Digitalisation in maritime shipping enables, for instance, the optimisation of personnel deployment and maintenance of ships. Continuous data acquisition by sensors and algorithms leads to large amounts of data, which can be evaluated in a solution-oriented way for the improved management and operation of ship fleets.

In addition, data acquisition and analysis can improve processes in ports, e.g. by making ship arrivals more precise and tracking emission trends.

Project examples

SCEDAS: Decision support system for planning and documentation of working and rest periods for each crew member of a ship fleet. (Fraunhofer CML)

TINA: Techniques for Interactive Nautical AIS Data Analysis e.g. for risk and safety analysis. (Fraunhofer CML)

Virtual reality, augmented reality and ship handling simulators

The use of virtual reality improves safety and efficiency of port maneuvers

In the institutes of Fraunhofer Waterborne, new solutions are developed with the help of VR, AR and ship handling simulators. The test environments enable the implementation of realistic maneuvers to test new technologies, e.g. for control and communication. In the European Maritime Simulator Network, for instance, more than 30 ships’ bridges can be virtually connected to each other to simulate joint maneuvers. Port tugs can be remote-controlled.

Project examples

FernSAMS: Safety and optimized port maneuvers thanks to remote-controlled tugs. (Fraunhofer CML)

EMSN Connect: European maritime simulator network for joint virtual maneuvers (Fraunhofer CML)