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Entwicklungszentrum für Schiffstechnik und Transportsysteme e.V.

Working on future port technologies

Being labelled the logistics world champion, Germany in general and North Rhine-Westphalia in particular are renowned for the high efficiency levels in the logistics processes. This strongly linked with the dense network of highways, railway connections, waterways, and inland ports.

In order to sustain and expand this position, the transport ministry of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) funds the establishment and launch of the so-called Port Research Lab. HaFoLa is built by the Development Centre for Ship Technology and Transport Systems and the Department of Mechatronics of the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE). With HaFoLa, the two partners are capable of developing new technologies from the level of fundamental research to proving the technical feasibility, which later are to be transferred into prototypes and solutions.

“Duisburg is a well-known location for its inland port, its logistics competence, and its inland navigation sector. This applies to the local industry as much as the research community in the city. The transport ministry acknowledges this and supports us actively”, says Cyril Alias, Department Head of Logistics & Transportation at DST, who has developed the idea and now acts as manager of the infrastructure project.

Apart from a test center, whose layout will resemble the one of a port including a port basin, quay walls, transshipment equipment as well as model inland vessels and containers, the research lab will include an experimental laboratory for future digitization projects. The Port Research Lab will enable DST and UDE to research on various port-related topics. such as berthing and mooring, loading and unloading, crane operations, and managing port resources.


HaFoLa will be built on the DST premises and consist of a test center and an experiment lab. © DST

From a mechatronics perspective, the possibilities opened up by advancing automation, machine learning, cyber-physical systems, and industry 4.0 in the realm of port and transshipment processes will belong to the core research fields. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dieter Schramm, professor of mechatronics at UDE, sees huge potential in the gradual automation of the port, “It is inevitable in order to increase the efficiency and performance of German ports.”

The transport minister of NRW, Hendrik Wüst, welcomed the future-oriented efforts in Duisburg and personally handed over the grant approval to the consortium during a visit at DST. “Future mobility is digital, interconnected, and automated. We want Mobility 4.0 not only to be researched, developed, and tested in NRW, but also to be manufactured and applied early on.” Wüst explained. “Therefore, we will create excellent conditions for the development of autonomous inland navigation and fund the HaFoLa project” he added.


Transport minister Wüst hands over the grant agreement to the HaFoLa consortium. © VM.NRW / Mark Hermenau

HaFoLa is not a single measure at all: The Test and Control Centre Autonomous Inland Shipping, which is also situated at DST, has already been funded a year ago and is now ready for opening. “With the two new test centers, VeLABi and HaFoLa, two major facets of the holistic development of the fully-automated operation of inland vessels will stand by” Prof. Dr.-Ing. Bettar Ould El Moctar, Scientific Director of DST and professor of ship technology at UDE, emphasizes. Minister Wüst has also visited VeLABi and inspected the new test center during his visit at DST. VeLABi will be formally opened on 22 October 2020 in the presence of representatives of the transport ministry of NRW.


Transport minister Wüst visits VeLABi and test the digital chart table. © DST / Cyril Alias


Transport minister Wüst inspects the steering stand in the VeLABi projection system. © VM.NRW / Mark Hermenau


For further information, please contact

Cyril Alias
Department Head Logistics & Transportation
DST – Development Centre for Ship Technology and Transport Systems
Phone: + 49 – (0)203 – 99 369 52
Mail: alias@dst-org.de

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    Development Centre for
    Ship Technology and Transport Systems

    Oststr. 77
    47057 Duisburg

    Tel.: +49 (0)203 - 99 36 9 - 0
    Fax: +49 (0)203 - 99 36 9 - 70

    E-Mail: dst@dst-org.de