Remote controlled barge takes boxes from Zeebrugge to Antwerp

Yesterday saw the first sailing with a remote controlled vessel between the Belgian ports of Zeebrugge and Antwerp along the Westerschelde, one of the busiest rivers in the world. The automated vessel Deseo transports containers between the two ports, which are set to merge. The ship is supported by Seafar’s control centre on land. The aim is to evolve towards navigation with a reduced crew.

Multiple state agencies have been involved in the development of the project with Flanders keen to be a pioneer in waterway innovations.

Seafar developed the technology to automate ships and control them from a centralised control centre. The operators in the control centre have a range of high-tech systems based on artificial intelligence, sensor fusion and object detection at their disposal to ensure safe navigation.

Louis-Robert Cool, CEO of Seafar, commented: “Seafar is a European pioneer in the development and operational integration of state-of-the-art technologies for semi-autonomous navigation. As an innovative player in the inland and shipping sector, Seafar wants to be an accelerator towards efficient and sustainable sailing.”

Flanders minister of mobility and public works Lydia Peeters said: “Innovations regarding automation in inland navigation help the sector and we want to take a pioneering role in this with Flanders. The automated barge project offers an answer to the mobility challenges of the future. It strengthens our society to digitise and innovate in such a progressive manner.”