The Traffic Center of the Future was designed in order to guide the growing shipping industry more efficiently and safely. All ships are guided from one center. This center receives all the information about ships, waterways and objects. Flood gates and bridges are also operated from this center.
Article from Objective 26, 2016
The Dutch rivers are considered to belong to the busiest waterways of Europe and they are expected to become even more crowded. The arrival of the Maasvlakte 2 resulted in an increase in inland navigation. But recreational navigation is also increasing. This requires some serious traffic management measures in order to guarantee a safe and efficient Dutch shipping industry in the future. At the busiest locations in the Netherlands, the shipping industry is already being guided from traffic posts. They are located at the seaport of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, near large flood gate complexes such as can be found in the Zeeland waters and at busy intersections and narrow turns. The staff of the traffic center has more overview than a captain. They can organize traffic and thus prevent congestion and collisions. Each traffic post, however, has a limit to its working area. Outside these areas, the traffic guidance stops.
Traffic Center of the Future
The Traffic Center of the Future takes away these limitations and can actively guide the shipping industry traffic along a complete corridor: from Amsterdam to Antwerp and from Rotterdam to Duisburg. All systems, communication and guidance are all combined in one center. The traffic leaders can follow ships from their starting point to their final destination and anticipate the ship's planned voyage. “According to this planning, you should reach bridge A ,which has to open, at this time and bridge B around this time.” The bridge operator knows when the bridge should be opened and the flood gate operator can efficiently plan his flood gate actions. With the Traffic Center of the Future as center point all parties can dynamically adjust their planning.
With such a planning the captain can maintain a steady course and save fuel. He can serve his clients better, because he can predict his traveling time much more accurately. The flood gate operator can fill his gates more efficiently; aiming for a better flow. The bridge operator can organize the ships in a schedule and this offers them a 'blue wave' during which the captains have a limited waiting time for bridges. Conversely, the captains know in time which overnight locations they can use and therefore adapt their traveling times accordingly.
Street atlas and traffic information
The Traffic Center of the Future combines several systems and technologies that are already available. The captain reports his traveling and loading data to the Inland waterways Information and Communication System (BICS). This also includes the starting point and the destination. What is new is that the captains can also communicate a travel plan that includes when the captain passes important points during his journey such as flood gates or bridges and where the captain hopes to dock for an overnight stay. Data regarding the waterways are from the waterway information system, a type of street atlas for the Dutch waterways, including the water levels, opening hours of obstacles, etc. We can determine how crowded the Dutch waterways are and which ships are where with the Automatic Identification System (AIS) that is located on board the ships.
Route Planner combines existing systems
All aforementioned systems come together in the Route Planner, a simulation model that can make a prognosis about the routes of the ships and the planning of the flood gates. The model assess whether the ship can pass all the obstacles and/or if there are any hindrances or incidents along the route. After that, the Route Planner will simulate the ship's journey together with all the other traffic. The Route Planner is the brain behind the Traffic Center of the Future. But the center also needs hands and eyes: the control of all objects and the images of the video camera's and radar stations along the water are all providing information for this one particular center.
In the Traffic Center of the Future the worlds of water management and waterways are coming together. This increases the complexity. A flood gate regulates the water level for the shipping industry, but also plays a role for the draining of the polders. Technolution has the required technical expertise, but also knows the domains in order to properly make the connections. We understand the information we process and know what the user, either on board or in the center, requires. We work together with custom user interfaces as to provide the right information at the right time; consistently thinking from the user's needs.
Privacy and economic interests
Privacy is an important topic in the systems that register location and loading data. In addition, the logistic sector also has an economical interest in the data. The captains and shipping companies would rather not share the information regarding who is transporting what parts with the competition. Captains have an agreement with Rijkswaterstaat for providing the location, travel and loading data with strict rules about how they are to be used. On the other hand, a captain can have a lot of advantage from sharing parts of his traveling plan. He can be helped in his need to travel smoothly and safely and also making good time. The sharing of the loading data can have advantages for the police, for example. From their experience, they can send a warning if they see a specific load. A loading of scrap can have radioactive properties or organic material can brew. You have to give something away, but you get something back in return.
A usable tool
The purpose of these types of new systems alway has to be: a usable and correctly working tool for the user. The first experiences with the introduction of the Traffic Center of the Future are promising. Flood gate operators with years of experience of planning the larger flood gate complexes at the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal were curious: “It is great, but it does not quite to do what we do. We can see its potential, so we would have to explore that.” By working with it, the logic and experience of the flood gate operators is gradually added to the system and a new intelligent component can develop.
Route guidance widely applicable
In a pilot project Rijkswaterstaat has shown that information and control over the objects can be brought together under one roof. For this pilot the Beatrix flood gates of the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal was controlled remotely as well as the traffic post of Nijmegen. From a technical aspect it is only logical to bring all the other traffic posts and objects together under one roof. Furthermore this manner of guidance along a corridor can easily be translated to the smaller waterways. And even from shipping industry to road traffic, for example for professional road transport.
Innovation is not about technical perfection. The secret is to apply the technique properly in the domain of both the client and the final user. Combining different worlds is a much larger challenge than making technical choices. In order to provide a good application, you will have to know what the information means. After that it is 'only' a matter of programming.