The high traffic density in port areas can lead to dangerous situations. Ships have to ma-noeuvre when entering and leaving port areas and when docking and casting off in areas that are difficult to assess (i.e. surrounding traffic, tides, currents and gusts of wind). In these situations, damage to ships and port infrastructure means, at best, property dam-age, but it can also lead to personal injury or environmental pollution or block the port infrastructure for a long period of time.

The aim of SmartKai is to develop a ship-independent assistance system that is imple-mented by an infrastructure on the port side and is aimed at pilots and nautical person-nel on a ship's bridge. LiDAR, AIS and hydrological sensors are used to enable continuous and precise assessment of the position and movements of a ship approaching the port infrastructure. As part of the project, specific sensors are being developed that meet the port-side and systemic requirements. The assistance system is to be used and tested at Niedersachsen Ports in Cuxhaven. Niedersachsen Ports is the network coordinator in this project.

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Dr. Matthäus Wuczkowski

Head of Sustainability
Hindenburgstraße 26 - 30
26122 Oldenburg

T:+49 441 350 20 613


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

As part of this digitization project in Wilhelmshaven and Cuxhaven (NPorts), SICK is devel-oping a new type of sensor that is installed on land at points with a high risk of accidents in the port basin, the lock and a new quay.
So that pilots, ship captains and port masters can use this information for safe navigation, the human-machine interaction and the design of a suitable user interface are also a chal-lenge. The partner Humatects is investigating how the user interface has to be designed in order to reduce the cognitive load of the user to keep it as low as possible and thus make safe navigation possible in the first place.

The merging of the locally distributed sensor sources as well as the validation and evalua-tion of the system is done by DLR e.V. using the eMIR technology development platform.

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Project Funding