Smart Shipping depends on international cooperation – Interview with Laurens Schrijnen and Anja van der Sluijs, Rijkswaterstaat

Smart Shipping depends on international cooperation – Interview with Laurens Schrijnen and Anja van der Sluijs, Rijkswaterstaat

Laurens Schrijnen and Anja van der Sluijs are both working for Rijkswaterstaat, the National Waterways Authority in the Netherlands. Rijkswaterstaat has taken a remarkable initiative that aims at cooperation between entrepreneurs, research and governments. This remarkable program is called SMASH! Schrijnen and Van der Sluijs speak about the project on Jun 13, at Unmanned Cargo Ship Conference in Venlo.

“Rijkswaterstaat has been asked by the Dutch government to bring the ‘Triple Helix’  together, they exist of entrepreneurs, research and government. Rijkswaterstaat plays the moderator-role and we are glad with the growing interest from the different companies, institutions as well governments. The number of participants is growing rapidly, which shows the importance for all involved,” says Laurens Schrijnen, manager at Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) and the moderator behind Smart Shipping Challenge 2017 SMASH!.

The Netherlands is the most important country of Europe in terms of transport, according to Schrijnen. “Half the European inland fleet is sailing under the Dutch flag. A new phase in inland navigation is starting. Knowledge and skills will and stay crucial and technology will be more and more important. For instance remotely controlled vessels, smart share of information, optimization of maintenance and possibly autonomous sailing. This gives opportunities and challenges regarding sustainability, safety and efficiency. All this will be put together in a demonstration, the Smart Shipping Challenge 2017 SMASH! on November 30, 2017. The aim is to bring knowledge and experience of existing initiatives, technologies, institutes and commercial organisations together, to learn from each other and take advantage of working together to get to smart shipping. SMASH! supports innovation and competitiveness in the Netherlands and other countries regarding inland navigation.”


“Surprisingly many entrepreneurs are astonished that so many technologies are already available out of other innovative fields,” says Anja van der Sluijs, who also is involved with SMASH!. “We are looking at smart tug services, that can be ready in time for service when required. This way less time is lost waiting. Automation plays an important role just like Wifi and pneumatic and magnetic devices. We want to provide different facilities and essential preconditions, which will take care of useful communication between various parties. From here the co-operation between the different groups will grow.”

The interest for SMASH! is growing fast, at the moment this conference will be held some 125 people have signed in for the next meeting te be held in a few days. The interest is not only from the Netherlands but the whole of Europe, which shows the importance for European inland shipping. Cooperating is very important, if not the most important issue of SMASH!.


The main issue behind SMASH! is sharing the knowledge of so many fields so as to lessen the input of largest danger factor, the human input. “The man is still the weakest link and most restrictive. For instance, underwater robots (Remotely Operated Vehicles, ROV) can do the work of men at great depths and give the view of what is going on. For instance when the MH 370 crashed nearly three years ago, we were astonished that only 2% of the seafloor is mapped,” according to Schrijnen. “Technology can support man in many fields and is done far too less. Why take water samples by hand when a robot can do it as well and at lower costs.”

Knowledge of a less pleasant piece of business is accident registration. With the growing information this gives more and more insight into how and why accidents happen, has a direct influence on the safety of inland shipping.

Schrijnen concludes: “It is for all involved better if we learn from our mistakes. We are lucky that most of the professionals agree with this view and this is an important basic ingredient for true cooperation, which brings us the so much needed innovations.”

For more information and registration to the Unmanned Cargo Ship Conference, we invite you to visit

The interview was made by Jakajima, the organiser of the conference. For more interviews with speakers at Jakajima conferences, we invite you to visit Jakajima’s website




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