Start-Up to Develop Small, Autonomous Emission-Free Ferries

Credit: Zeabuz

Published Dec 29, 2019 9:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

The world is increasingly urbanized, and most cities are located in coastal areas or along waterways. This, says former DNV GL executive Bjørn K. Haugland, requires new transport solutions that are cost-effective and emission-free. 

Norway's NTNU has initiated a new company, Zeabuz, that will build small commuter ferries, led by Haugland and a team of three professors.

Haugland is CEO of Skift Business Climate Leaders and chairman of the new company. “The climate crisis means that there will be great demand for smart, climate-friendly mobility solutions worldwide. NTNU has been researching ship control and autonomy for many years, and the Norwegian industrial adventure concerning dynamic positioning of ships started at NTNU,” he says.

This has given rise to a multi-million dollar industry centered in Norway, and Zeabuz will tap into that to develop autonomous ferries to sell to both cities and smaller settlements along the coast. The Zeabuz ferries will be small, electric and operated on-demand. 

“Autonomy fits like a glove with electric ferries. This enables better control, optimal operation, safety and maintenance,” says Asgeir J. Sørensen, director of NTNU's research center on autonomous maritime operations, NTNU AMOS.

“Our autonomy solution is world-leading and can enable self-driving ferries that safely maneuver among other boats, dock to the quay by themselves and handle passengers safely,” says Susanne Jäschke, interim CEO of the company. “We work with DNV GL, the Norwegian Coastal Administration and the Norwegian Maritime Directorate to test two prototypes in Trondheim. The unique technology has been developed at NTNU and will be made available to the company.”
Among the NTNU researchers involved are the serial entrepreneurs Asgeir J. Sørensen (Marine Cybernetics, Ecotone, Eelume), Tor Arne Johansen (Marine Cybernetics, Scout Drone Inspection, UBIQ Aerospace) and Egil Eide (3D radar). The company originates from NTNU AMOS and the departments of Marine Technology, Engineering Cybernetics and Electronic Systems and has received key support from the Norwegian Research Council’s program FORNY as well as NTNU Discovery. NTNU Technology Transfer has been responsible for business development and project management.

Zeabuz is seeking partners and talent to join the team.