Pilot project for unmanned ships on Flanders’ inland waterways later this year

The Flemish Government has agreed to proposals by the Flemish Transport Minister Ben Weyts (Nationalist) for a pilot project that will see unmanned ships sail on our region’s inland waterways in the second half of this year. 

A pilot project involving a 4.6 metre long self-navigating scale model is already running on the River IJzer in West Flanders. The project is being run by Flemish Waterways, POM West Flanders and Leuven University.    

The Flemish Government’s decision means that that full-sized self-navigating ships can be tested. The test vessels will be given exemption from their current obligation to have crew members on boards. It will also be decided in advance who will be responsible if and when issues were to arise.   

According to Mr Weyts 5 private companies have prepared projects will full-sized vessels for the second half of this year. The test area will cover almost all our region’s network of inland waterways. Pilot projects will be held in all 5 Flemish provinces.  

Last year more than 72 million tonnes of goods were transported on our region’s inland waterways. This is the equivalent of 3 million lorry loads of goods