One of the goals of the European Union (EU) is to create a sustainable and efficient transportation network by 2050 with the Trans-European Transport (TEN-T) Network policy, which attempts to integrate all transportation modes.
One of the core objectives of this policy is the minimisation of the transportation environmental footprint by shifting cargo from carbon-intensive, land-based modalities to more efficient modes. Within this context, Short Sea Shipping (SSS) plays a key role in achieving the EU targets due to its ability to transport cargo cost-effectively and with a reduced environmental footprint. It, also, has a strong dynamic as the total gross weight of goods transported by EU SSS is estimated at almost 1.8 billion tonnes in 2019, while this segment made up 60% of the total sea transport of goods to and from the main EU ports in 2019.
However, road and rail are still preferred in many cases over SSS due to barriers related to infrastructure availability, lack of door-to-door delivery, integration with other transportation modes, complex cost structure, and delays related to logistics planning. To overcome these barriers, the EU is starting to think differently by attempting to exploit the benefits of high levels of automation/autonomy. Disruptive technologies that enable automation and autonomy have been recently receiving a lot of attention, in part, due to their strong potential to revolutionise the landscape of the maritime industry and make it more efficient and sustainable.