The maritime industry is in the middle of a transformation process, and digitalisation and automation play a rapidly increasing role. For this reason, a working group consisting of a number of businesses and organisations have launched a project to establish Denmark's first driverless harbour bus across Limfjorden as a supplement to other public transport. The Maritime Authority has now officially approved the project, which means it can now enter phase two: the test phase.

- It’s very positive that the Danish Maritime Authority has now given us the green light to continue this project, says chairman of the board of Aalborg Havn A/S and Mayor of Aalborg, Thomas Kastrup-Larsen, and he continues:

- The crossing between the Stigsborg Waterfront in Nørresundby and Musikkens Hus in Aalborg will physically connect the town but it will also be an important element of the regional development strategy. Our ambition is to be a smart city, topping the international lists when it comes to innovative and sustainable urban development. The harbour bus is one step in the right direction.

Two-year pilot phase
However, passengers in North Jutland will not simply be thrown in at the deep end. During the upcoming test phase, the ferry will sail with two crew members on board. They will thoroughly test the technology so that we can guarantee that passengers will be able to cross the fjord without getting their feet wet when the ferry sails without a driver in the future.

- Intensive efforts will be made to launch the trial ferry with crew on the fjord as early as this summer. And if all goes well, we hope to have the driverless harbour bus ready for its maiden voyage with 12 passengers by 2020, says Thomas Kastrup-Larsen.

Limfjorden as a maritime powerhouse
Apart from contributing to the public transport network, there are two motives for the project. One aim is to make the Stigsborg Waterfront – Nørresundby’s new, attractive district – more accessible.

- Integration of housing, commerce and green areas, which can be used for a wide variety of purposes, sets the trend for tomorrow’s multi-functional and sustainable urban districts, Thomas Kastrup-Larsen explains.

Another and equally important motive is the desire to put Aalborg on the world map when it comes to high-tech, maritime development.

- In North Jutland, we have a wealth of businesses, organisations and research centres, all sitting on a great deal of maritime expertise. We need to exploit this. And these same operators will also profit from greater focus on the field within the region. It will give both the individual business and the industry in general the opportunity to grow, says Thomas Kastrup-Larsen.

Aalborg’s visions make a powerful contribution to the Danish Government’s growth strategy to make Denmark a global maritime powerhouse that will take the lead in developing technology, materials, digitalisation, automation, etc. in this field.

Strong foundation
Awareness of the unexploited maritime resources in North Jutland is the pivotal issue for the working group, which consists of a range of businesses and organisations with first-rate skills in the maritime domain, offering everything from research and project management to the people needed to develop intelligent systems for autonomous ferry operation, navigation and shipping safety.

The project is based at CLS (Centre for Logistics and Collaboration) and other stakeholders include independent commercial foundation Stigsborg Waterfront, Port of Aalborg, Aalborg University, Wärtsilä/Lyngsoe Marine Systems, MARCOD, Martec, TUCO Group, Beredskab Nordjylland, the Municipality of Aalborg’s bridge operator, law firm HjulmandKaptajn, accountancy firm BDO, MYdefence, LB Consult, Tall Ships Aalborg Foundation and Logimatic.

- The maritime sector is extremely complicated, but with this group of businesses and organisations we have access to world-class skills. So, I really believe we’ll be able to launch Denmark's first harbour bus in Limfjorden by 2020, Thomas Kastrup-Larsen concludes.

Provisional schedule
The working group currently intends to set up a commercial foundation. Initially, they are applying for regional R&D funds for the preliminary project in 2018. They then need to raise a further DKK 20–30 million over the remaining three years, which is the length of time the project is estimated to run according to the provisional schedule:

2018: Trial with small, manned ferry
2019: Trial with small, driverless ferry
2020: Small, driverless ferry will be put into operation
2022: Larger, driverless ferry will be put into operation

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