The high traffic density in port areas can lead to dangerous situations. While they are entering and exiting the port areas, and while mooring and unmooring, ships have to maneuver in areas that are hard to fathom (i.e., surrounding traffic, tides, currents, and wind gusts).  On a good day, these situations mean damage to ships and port infrastructure, but in a worst-case scenario, this can easily mean personal injury or pollution of the environment, or it can jam up the port infrastructure for an indefinite amount of time. 

SmartKai's goal is the development of a ship-independent navigational aid system that will be implemented through a portside infrastructure, and is directed at the nautical staff on a ship's bridge. We will use LiDAR, AIS, and hydrological sensors to ensure a continuous and precise assessment of the position and the movements of a ship approaching the port infrastructure. Within the scope of this project, specific sensors will be developed that match the portside and systemic requirements. The nautical aid system is slated to be deployed and tested at Niedersachsen Ports in Cuxhaven. In this project, the port infrastructure company Niedersachsen Ports GmbH & Co. KG will be the project coordinator.

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Dr. Dr. Matthäus Wuczkowski

Dr. Matthäus Wuczkowski

Head of Sustainability
Hindenburgstraße 26 - 30
26122 Oldenburg

T:+49 441 350 20 613


Jürgen Höpcke

Jürgen Höpcke

Project Manager
Am Schleusenpriel 2
27472 Cuxhaven

T:+49 4721 500-100


When entering or exiting the port, when mooring or unmooring, or, when traversing through sea locks, ships must maneuver in areas that are hard to fathom, or that are hydrodynamically hard to gauge.

Even pilots familiar with the local conditions must be prepared for environmental conditions to change rapidly and must be sure to make the right nautical decisions. Especially in tide-dependent ports, the particular water depth must be considered, since ports may only be approached of left at appropriate water levels.

In tight windows of opportunity (tidal time slots), you must typically expect an increased volume of traffic. In those situations, the likelihood for damage to vessels and the port infrastructure is always greater. In the best-case scenario that means that there is only material damage and downtime for ship owners or port operators, but there is also a chance for more severe consequences with personal injuries or damage to the environment.

Project Objective

The goal of this project is the development of a ship-independent and portside-installed assistance system called “SmartKai”. On the basis of a newly developed, locally spaced out, and laser-assisted sensor system, we are aiming to create (on a prototype basis, and with the help of this assistance system) a consistent picture of the current status quo for various target groups, for the avoidance of accidents and damage to the port infrastructure, and also for the immediate determination of the perpetrator.

Solution approach

Within the scope of this digitization project in Wilhelmshaven and Cuxhaven (NPorts), SICK is developing a novel type of sensor that will be installed shoreside at points with a high propensity for accidents within the port basin, the lock, and the new quay facility.

For utilization of this information for safe navigation by pilots, ship captains, and port captains, the man-machine interaction and the design of a suitable user interface also poses a challenge. The partner Humatects is investigating, just how a user interface must be designed to keep the cognitive burden of users to an absolute minimum and thereby making safe navigation a reality. 

The linking of the locally disbursed sensor sources and the validation and evaluation of the system is performed by OFFIS through the technology development platform eMIR.

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