MCA (Maritime Campus Antwerp) will be located on the former BP site, a brownfield south of Blue Gate. Seafar, specialized in Remote Ship Management, and DEME Environmental Contractors (DEC) today started transporting the polluted soil off the site. ZONGA, an automated 135-metre barge, will be used to perform this for the first time in Europe. It is a scoop that immediately provides clear insights into the future of shipping. This month you can see ZONGA sailing by in Antwerp.
It was a well-considered decision to transport it in this way, says Bart Huybrechts, Managing Director of MCA:
“It perfectly fits MCA’s DNA, bringing together start-ups, scale-ups and large companies to respond to the new developments in the sector. In parallel, we are using water transport, taking more than 330 trucks off the road. A barge consumes three to five times less than a truck per tonne-kilometre (1 tonne over 1 kilometre) and CO2 emissions are about two-thirds lower. 330 trucks placed one after the other, gives a truck line of about 3 kilometres. If you take the regular driving distances into account, that’s about 20 km less trucks driving through the Kennedy Tunnel.”
A growing economy requires efficient transport. Inland navigation is safe, on time, green and energy-efficient. However, in order to achieve the full potential of the waterway network, innovation must be accelerated. Starting with autonomous barges. Louis-Robert Cool, CEO of Seafar, explains further:
“The use of automated barges opens up a wide range of new opportunities in general cargo transport. Supporting a master remotely increases the deployability of an inland vessel, optimises operating costs and provides an answer to the shortage of personnel in the sector. We are developing technology to control autonomous vessels from our Seafar control centre. For this purpose, we are implementing our own control system, sensors and software on board the vessel. Afterwards, the ship is connected to the control centre from where a certified master can monitor and control the ship.“
In this project the Seafar control centre supports the inland vessel ZONGA, in cooperation with shipowner Degrave-Antverpia.
Dirk Ponnet, General Manager of DEC, explains the collaboration:
“We strongly believe in the innovative techniques that make it possible to sail automatically. This makes it possible to make efficiency improvements. We are proud to be able to participate in this scoop, which will bring the contaminated soil from the former BP site to our soil purification centre GRC in Kallo via autonomous ships. We are currently investigating the possibilities for autonomous transport at other shipyards too.”
Seafar develops technology to remotely control autonomous barges. Besides developing technology, Seafar specializes in operating and managing autonomous barges.