An autonomous vessel is being tested - a European first


The first crewless maritime transport vessel is currently being tested on two inland waterways in Flanders.

The vessel, called the Watertruck+, currently carries construction aggregates along the Ypres and Plassendale-Nieuwpoort canals.

This one-year pilot project is being led by the Brussels maritime transport group De Cloedt, which owns the ship, in cooperation with the De Vlaamse Waterweg agency. The inland route from Diksmuide to Ostend was chosen because it is not busy. And, as Patrick Degryse, President of De Cloedt, explained, every precaution will be taken for this European first, as "a skipper will remain on board during the first test phase, to ensure there are no problems and correct the navigation system where necessary. It is only after this stage that the vessel will travel with no crew on board".

This achievement was made possible by a major technological development by the company Seafar, based in the port of Antwerp. According to its director Louis-Robert Cool, "several crewless vessels can be monitored and controlled via a control centre by a single land-based operator. This provides a solution to the lack of crew in the inland navigation sector and should improve the sector's operational efficiency."