The DST is an international research institute with more than 60 years of experience in the areas of inland and coastal shipping and transport systems.
Key elements of the DST business are the investigation of the special flow conditions of ships in inland and coastal waters with restricted depths and the support of the inland navigation sector in the development and modernization of vessels. In addition, wave and tidal power plants as well as many other special projects are dealt with.
Furthermore, issues of traffic engineering and -logistics as well as transport economics are in focus with the objective to access new potential of inland navigation and thus contribute to economic and ecological approaches to meet the increasing demand for transport.
Since 2008 the DST runs a ship handling simulator, called SANDRA. This shallow water simulator was developed specifically for the education and training of boat masters and for processing shallow water-related projects. In addition to traditional model testing in a towing tank, the simulator is used to test the navigability and manoeuvrability of ships, beginning from standard inland vessels up to large container vessels, while passing inland waterways and channels, as well as propulsion or steering systems. In addition to use in research projects (see Project wind effects), the education and training of crew members in the simulator is becoming more important, as the simulator can usefully supplement the on-board training. Crews have the option, for example to train through repeated exercises the navigation on demanding routes and thus to more rapidly acquire a patent.
The promotion of traffic safety as well as economic reasons (cf. project Topofahrt – reduction of fuel consumption) underline the significance of simulators for inland navigation.
A close cooperation with industry and administration ensures that results of applied research and development are carried forward rapidly into practice.
Since 1989 the DST is an associated institute of the University of Duisburg-Essen.
Along with 14 other legally independent nonuniversity non-profit research institutes, since November 2014 the DST is a member of the Johannes-Rau-Research Association.