Operator-Centred Enhancement of Awareness in Navigation – that’s the full name of the 6 million euro Horizon Europe project – is looking to improve the statistics and make seafaring safer for all stakeholders involved.
The goal is to find a way to better flag potential dangers to the watchkeeper, such as other ships, drifting containers and whales, thereby avoiding collisions and subsequent loss or damage to human and marine life, as well as the physical and financial damage a crash entails.
Launched in October 2022, the project will run over three years, involving 13 partners from maritime regions across 7 European countries.
The Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL) and their Department of Maritime Studies in Haugesund is coordinating the project.
We met with project manager and post-doctoral fellow, Erik Styhr Petersen who, together with colleague Margareta H. Lützhöft , will be coordinating the project over the next years.
Petersen has long experience from the maritime industry and is currently employed at HVL. Originally a naval architect by profession, and now holding a PhD in maritime usability from Chalmers Technical University, he has coordinated several large-scale EU projects in the past.
─ Erik, with your long expertise and passion for maritime and navigation, what caught your interest in this particular call?
─ With the large number of accidents involving vessels at sea and knowing the majority of those are related to navigational challenges, I see this project as a way of putting our common expertise to use in order to find a European solution to a global problem. Furthermore, it is extremely inspiring to be able to work with a team of highly competent European partners at this scale.
─ With 6 million euros over three years, this is not a small project. What expertise does it take for an institution to be in lead on Horizon calls of this scale?
─ The Western Norway University of Applied Sciences has a complete maritime/marine educational environment, including nautical science, maritime, subsea education, professional diving, marine technology, ocean technology, Climate Change Management and IT, with higher education studies at bachelor, master, and PhD level in Maritime Affairs/Nautical Operations.
The ecosystem around HVL is also of utmost importance, he adds.
─ HVL and Rogaland hold all the prerequisites to be in lead on these types of projects. Within a small radius in Haugesund, you find The Norwegian Coastal Administration, the Norwegian Maritime Authority, Haugesund Test Area for Autonomous Ships and major shipping companies.
Styhr Pedersen also points to the keen maritime interest of the municipality of Haugesund.
─ Add the HVL Department for Maritime Studies and our education of seafarers and the research on maritime safety into the mix, and you have a promising recipe, he says.
─ This region is a testbed for advanced technology. There is long tradition and low threshold for sailing out to test new solutions, for cooperation with the maritime authorities and for talking to each other. This is triple helix in practice.
What problem is the OCEAN project set to solve?
─ Seafarers are competent and conscientious people who want to do their job right. When errors occur, there are usually underlying factors influencing the operations, time pressure and the entire social-technical perspective. At the bottom of things we believe that accidents are often either due to a lack of information and/or limited time to react.
He explains that a particular challenge is to detect smaller or nearly submerged objects, such as barely floating containers or whales, and especially to do it in time to evade.
─ These are objects you cannot spot in the dark, so there must be other types of data available. The challenge is to create awareness at the right time.
─ Horizon Europe is a European research and innovation programme – in fact, the biggest in the world. With the Missions (one of them on restoring our oceans) the EU aims to tackle global challenges facing humanity. What is the geographical scope of the OCEAN project?
─ The target group is European, both in terms of coastal states and flags, but these ships venture into international waters, globally. This surely is a universal challenge, and shipping is a globally connected industry – perhaps more than any.
─ Could you perhaps elaborate a bit on the end product or service you’re envisioning here – will it be a prototype?
─ The Technological Readiness Level (TRL) of this project is 7, so there are two key objectives here. The aim is really to assess what we’ve got available in the industry and see how we can put it to use and scale it up. The components needed do exist to a certain degree, but the infrastructure is lacking. There are about 70 000 large ships out there. How do we reach them?
Another issue with is the cost, Styhr Petersen says.
─ We know from experience, that these tools cannot come with any significant additional cost for the user if they are to be widely adopted. We envision a system where the users report lost items, in the interest of all, and where data are aggregated, shared, and transmitted back to the ships with as little delay as possible. Sightings, underwater acoustics, satellite images and advanced mathematical models will all be in play, and artificial intelligence will be applied to validate observations.
When it comes to marine mammals, one size does not fit all.
─ Different species move in different patterns, and the system needs to be suitable for this.
The end goal is really to create a common good, in the interest of all, Petersen concludes.
Want to know more about the OCEAN project, and follow the developments?
Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (Norway) https://www.hvl.no/en/ (Coordinator)
The Norwegian Coastal Administration (Norway) https://www.kystverket.no/
National Technical University of Athens (Greece) https://www.ntua.gr/en/
Centre Internacional de Mètodes Numèrics a l’Enginyeria (Spain) https://www.cimne.com/
Teledyne Reson A/S (Denmark) http://www.teledynemarine.com/reson
Universidade dos Açores (Portugal) https://www.uac.pt/
Kongsberg Maritime AS (Norway) https://www.kongsberg.com/no/maritime/
Kongsberg Seatex AS (Norway) https://www.kongsberg.com/no/maritime/contact/our-offices/norway-trondheim-seatex-as/
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Spain) https://www.upc.edu/
Irish Ferries Ltd (Ireland) https://www.irishferries.com/
Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (Ireland) https://iwdg.ie/
The Nautical Institute (The United Kingdom) https://www.nautinst.org/
Lloyd’s Register (The United Kingdom) https://www.lr.org/