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Ambitious research project addresses significant climate issue within the shipping industry

The formation of ships queuing outside ports is a widespread problem, leading to unnecessary fuel consumption and, consequently, CO2 emissions. With a total budget of 7,5 million euros, a new European research project, spearheaded by the University of Southern Denmark, is set to find a solution.

By Sebastian Wittrock, , 1/3/2024

It is known as "hurry up and wait."


In the shipping industry, it is a common issue for ships to speed towards their next destination, only to arrive at a crowded port and receive instructions to either circle outside the harbor or anchor until port services and a berth are available. According to a report from the International Maritime Organization, ships may spend 5-10% of their time waiting to enter a port.


The unnecessarily higher speed and subsequent waiting time with auxiliary engines running result in significantly increased fuel consumption, posing environmental and economic challenges.  


30 partners join forces

Therefore, a consortium of European universities, ports, shipping companies, and technology firms have joined forces to find a solution. 30 different partners are involved.


The project is named MaritIme juSt in time optimiSatION (MISSION). With an EU grant of 7,5 million euros, the partners aim to develop, over the next 3.5 years, a new communication and logistics platform for shipping.


The platform aims to make maritime traffic more efficient and ensure that ships arrive at their destination port only when port services and a berth is available ­– just in time.


- In essence, it's about communication. The ship needs to know when the port is ready, and the port needs to know when the ship is arriving, says research leader Julia Pahl, associate professor at The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Southern Denmark.


- And that may sound simple, but it's not. There are a lot more parties involved than one might think, and they rarely use the same systems and are only sometimes in agreement on terminology. Take a term like ETA or estimated time of arrival. Does it mean arrival outside the harbor entrance, at the terminals, or elsewhere? Standards are available, but not used by all.


23% Less Fuel

According to the European Commission, the shipping industry globally accounts for 3% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. However, the need for transportation is increasing, and the maritime sector and its CO2 emissions have been among the fastest growing in recent years. This is precisely why action is needed now.


The project's outcome will not be a new software system for the shipping industry but rather an integration of existing systems so they can communicate with each other.


With this, researchers expect that fuel consumption can be reduced by up to 23% on the overall voyage and port call including the shore side.


The platform's effectiveness will also be demonstrated as part of the project. This applies for both container ships, RoRo (roll-on/roll-off) vessels, which allow direct cargo rolling, and tramp shipping, mainly consisting of tankers and bulk carriers.


- The idea is initially to implement the platform here in Europe," says Julia Pahl from the University of Southern Denmark.


- If we can prove that it works and significantly optimizes maritime traffic, we hope to expand its use globally.

About the project

  • The research project MISSION (MaritIme juSt in time optimiSatION) focuses on developing a communication and logistics platform to optimize maritime traffic, thereby avoiding congestion outside ports and reducing unnecessary high fuel consumption. 
  • The project is led by the University of Southern Denmark and involves 30 European partners, including universities, ports, shipping companies, and technology firms. See the complete list of partners below. 
  •  It is an EU Horizon project financed with 7.5 million euros by the European Commission.
  • Research leader is Julia Pahl, lecturer at the Technical Faculty of the University of Southern Denmark. 
  • The partners are: Syddansk Universitet, Fundacion de la Comunidad Valenciana para la investigacion, promocion y estudios comerciales de Valenciaport, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Abo Akademi, Awake.AI OY, Cetena SPA Centro per gli Studi di Tecnica Navale, Ethnicon Metsovion Polytechnion, Revolve Planet, TIC 4.0, DFDS AS, Tecnologian Tutkimuskeskus VTT OY, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V., Fondazione Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici, Finntraffic Vessel Traffic Services Ltd, Royal Dirkzwager B.V., Fonden Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, NAPA OY, Blue Visby Services Ltd (Associate Partner), IOTA Stiftung, Autorita di Sistema Portuale del Mare Adriatico Orientale, Autorita di Sistema Portuale del Mare Ligure Occidentale, Port of Piraeus, Port of Klaipeda, Stockholms Universitet, ERShip S.A.U., Essberger & Stolt Tankers GmbH & Co. KG, COSCO Shipping Lines Spain SA, Finnlines Plc, Digital Container Shipping Association – DCSA (Associate Partner), Haven Van Antwerpen-Brugge (Associate Partner) 
Editing was completed: 03.01.2024