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Use Case 1 - Netherlands

Use Case 1 focuses on addressing the challenges of congestion and transport efficiency in the densely populated region of the Netherlands, particularly around the cities of Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, and Amsterdam. These cities are not only connected by the busiest roads in the country, such as the A13, A10, and A12, but also by a network of small waterways that run parallel to the congested motorways.

The objective of UC1 is to establish a multimodal transport system that prioritises the use of inland waterways to carry the heaviest load of cargo, while minimising reliance on road transport. The primary goal is to provide efficient distribution of goods into urban areas and cities, while also creating bypass veins on the canals to alleviate traffic congestion on the roads. To achieve this, the AUTOFLEX will deliver the design of small autonomous zero-emission vessels. These vessels will be specifically designed to have access to the bypass veins and branches that reach the cities and urban areas with significant cargo transport demand.

The coordination of ship concept development, design activities, scale model construction, testing, and demonstrations of the developed vessel concepts will be led by partner DST. They will be responsible for ensuring the successful implementation of the vessel designs. In addition, the optimisation of hull and propulsion systems will be carried out by SINTEF Ocean, who will utilise diffferent design tools and perform computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations to enhance the performance and efficiency of the vessels. Partner ISE will contribute to the project by conducting the initial concept and lightweight structural design of the vessels. They will ensure that the vessels are structurally sound and meet the necessary requirements for safe and efficient operations. This collaborative effort will ensure that the transport network is well-designed, efficient, and capable of accommodating realistic cargo flows. The logistical knowledge provided by DFDS will play a crucial role in ensuring that the ship concept developments align with the practical cargo transportation needs of the region.

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Use Case 2 - Belgium

Use Case 2 focuses on the areas surrounding Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Ghent, which experience a significant volume of cargo transportation. While these regions are well-served by larger waterways, there is still untapped potential to increase the zero emission waterborne share of transport. Currently, a majority of the cargo transportation in this area is carried out by larger fossil fuel-powered ships (CEMT IV-VI) that call on larger inland ports. To combat the climate impact of these operations, there is a need to introduce zero-emission vessels and integrate them with distribution services to reduce the reliance on transshipment and truck transportation. 

The primary objective of UC2 is to develop energy and cargo hubs known as Stow&Charge, which will serve as efficient and sustainable hubs. These hubs will not only supply the zero-emission transport system with renewable energy but also facilitate seamless transshipment of cargo between different modes of transport. AUTOFLEX will determine the optimal placement of these hubs and develop a well-designed transport network that efficiently connects various locations. Additionally, the consortium will explore grid services and balancing to ensure a stable and reliable energy supply. UC2 will also delve into the concept of autonomy and its impact on vessel size and design. It will involve evaluating the trade-off between vessel reach and the need for transshipment to smaller vessels or other transport modes.

To demonstrate the viability of autonomous navigation, full-scale tests will be conducted on the Ghent-Terneuzen canal and the Terneuzen lock. As part of the preparations, a DFDS vessel will be equipped with a sensor and situational awareness package to collect operational data within the demonstration area. Maritime Robotics, the technology provider partner, will outfit a DFDS inland vessel with autonomous technology. Safety, security, and risk assessments will be carried out in collaboration with the port authority of the test area, partner North Sea Port, and research partners NTUA, Fraunhofer CML, as well as Sintef Ocean. These assessments will define necessary mitigating actions and ensure compliance with regulations for the demonstration.

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