For efficient and sustainable transport over and around water, it is becoming increasingly important for machines to communicate and cooperate with each other. Machines should therefore no longer be viewed as separate entities. This is extremely important if we are to improve the design of complex transport and production processes. Optimising the interaction between machines in a multi-machine system reduces energy consumption and emissions and increases the safety and accuracy of the system. When designing new machines and their surrounding infrastructure, such as found in new port terminal, it is therefore important to view machines in conjunction with one another and not just as a collection of individual ‘points’. Machines must be able to communicate with each other continuously and in real time, and make optimal use of the information exchanged to make decisions. Among other things, rapid developments in communication and sensor technology are making this possible.

The research within the Coordinated Multi-Machine Transport & Logistics theme anticipates the large-scale availability of sensor information and data sources and aims to make comprehensive use of these new options in the ICT field, not only in water transport but also more broadly, through the optimal embedding of water transport in the entire logistics chain. Automatic data collection, processing data into mathematical models and the intelligent use of these models is a crucial aspect of the research. Real-time monitoring control, routing and distributed decision support in uncertain situations to improve performance at fleet level (taking into account groups of machines) are some of the focuses of this research.

The applications are not only used in port terminals, but also on inland vessels, for example, which can better coordinate their routes with each other, or in the optimisation of waiting times at locks, and in modern production environments. An advanced form of coordinated transport is fully autonomous shipping, an important element of this theme, with facilities such as the Autonomous Shipping Research Lab and the Autonomous Guided Vehicles Lab.

A recent and innovative example within the Coordinated Multi-Machine Transport & Logistics research is investigated within the Horizon 2020 programme NOVIMOVE. Read more here: “Millions of euros to improve the Rhine-Alpine freight corridor”


  • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) Lab
  • Researchlab Autonomous Shipping