From the February 2022 issue of Pacific Ports Magazine

“Kongsberg Maritime (KM) is delighted to join APP,” says Konrad Mech, Director, Sensors and Robotics Channel Management. “Kongsberg Maritime is a long-time player in the maritime domain since Norway’s discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s. Most people only know Kongsberg from the vessel side. In fact, Kongsberg has always worked with clients in the coasts, ports, and inland waterways markets. In 2022, Kongsberg is focusing on getting our message out to this sector because we have so much to offer. I’m pleased to be leading this global effort with my colleagues at Kongsberg.”

Since the 1970s, Maritime has grown to be the largest of Kongsberg’s three business areas. Kongsberg’s Norwegian origins foster a close connection to the sea. Kongsberg are leading experts in sustainable ocean technology, with 80 percent of our business coming from ocean-related solutions. Kongsberg has close partnerships with all stakeholders in the maritime ecosystem — governments and regulatory bodies, naval architects, shipyards, pilots, shippers, and marine engineering firms. Kongsberg has a global reputation for tackling and mastering challenges in world’s most difficult marine environments including full ocean-depth sensors, deep sea drilling and mining, and severe sea states.

The diversity and expanse of Kongberg’s expertise extends well beyond vessels and can provide ports of all sizes with valuable assistance on many issues related to port operations.

Port operators face several converging pressures on their operations. Vessels are getting bigger, with deeper drafts, which requires dredging of channels, turning basins and berths. Weather is becoming more severe, with stronger winds. Ports need to strengthen their mooring systems to resist wind loads on these larger vessels. Ports also need to have rapid response capabilities to ensure safe navigation in their channels after more severe and frequent storm events. Ensuring safe channels is now a legal liability for ports and terminals, following the Athos I precedent. A shortage of mariners is accelerating the development of autonomous vessels. Operators are pivoting away from carbon fuels to cleaner alternatives such as hydrogen, ammonia, or electric vessels. All these factors drive changes to dock-side infrastructure, and any dock-side infrastructure work includes work below the waterline. That’s a lot for port management to plan and deliver, and Kongsberg can help.

Infrastructure inspection for ports is critical, particularly below the waterline. Kongsberg has a leadership position in sonar imaging for marine civil engineering applications and diver supervision. Underwater acoustics are used during all project phases. Many people know Kongsberg’s reputation in offshore projects during pre-construction, construction, post-construction operations and maintenance, and decommissioning. Kongsberg also knows how to deliver solutions for ports and inland waterways. When an engineer reads the American Society of Civil Engineering’s Waterfront Facilities Inspection and Assessment Manual on acoustic inspection, the sonar images are captured with Kongsberg Mesotech sonar. Kongsberg has partnered for several years with Northwest Michigan College to train inspection sonar operators for marine engineering applications.

“Kongsberg touches many aspects of port operations. Kongsberg Norcontrol has installed Vessel Traffic Services in several Pacific ports. Kongsberg Seatex delivers AIS infrastructure solutions. Kongsberg Digital delivers marine simulators used to train pilots. Legal firms and accident investigators even use these simulators to reconstruct collision and grounding events,” Mech says. Kongsberg ascribes to the UN’s 17 Sustainability Development Goals and recognizes that the changing climate also requires action by ports and inland waterways. “One of my colleagues, Jeff Condiotty, has assisted several scientists on their PhD work with specialized instrumentation for environmental research of wetlands and fish habitat. We want to help deliver solutions to real-world challenges.”

Another colleague, Jacob Sobin, regularly attends and presents to congressional committees in Washington DC. Jacob follows the U.S. government’s Port Infrastructure Development Grants, and how Kongsberg’s offerings fit in. NDAA authorized and appropriated $230 million for the 2021 Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) to make grants to improve facilities within or outside of and directly related to operations, or an intermodal connection of coastal seaports, inland river ports, and Great Lakes ports. The Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) continues to be very valuable for U.S. ports, which serve as partners with the Department of Homeland Security to harden security. Another society that’s in Washington D.C. leads this and continues to urge Congress to increase the authorization and appropriation levels for the program back to where they once were, at $400 million. Looking through the topics at the APP meeting this year, the focus was on the Infrastructure Grants program, Environmental Permitting Process, Ports and Climate Resilience and Environmental monitoring, and Port Digitization. Kongsberg touches all these topics.

2022 and beyond is going to be an exciting time for ports. The COVID pandemic threw a real curve ball at global supply chains, and many businesses have struggled. So many factors impacted the flow of goods – sickness in the labor force, fuel shortages for vehicles, lack of ISO containers, and delivery disruptions from Asian factories. Global supply chains are still to this day recovering from the Evergreen grounding in the Suez Canal. Many American firms are now onshoring production, but trans-ocean shipping will not stop. The U.S. government’s Infrastructure Bill shows their commitment to improving port infrastructure and addressing these factors.

“We are already recognized as the market standard for our high-resolution inspection sonar,” says Aziah North, one of Kongsberg’s Civil Engineers. “What’s super exciting is we now have systems for permanent, real-time monitoring of scour and bottom changes. This is valuable for monitoring of critical infrastructure that is exposed to violent weather conditions or collision damage. We can network togethe

r sonar data to a central operations room and give port operations real-time situation awareness of their critical assets below the waterline.”

One emerging area that will change port operations is autonomous vessels. On one hand, with fewer people entering the workforce as mariners, autonomous vessels make sense to close the labor gap. On the other hand, several safety issues need to be resolved, including collision regulations and situational awareness with sensor fusion. Like aerial drone operations, the situation is evolving as companies experiment with small-scale projects and negotiate solutions with regulators and maritime authorities. Kongsberg has already delivered a fully electric powered autonomous vessel in Norway, the Yara Birkeland, that operates on a limited commercial route. Kongsberg already plays an active role in the development of smart ports. Port authorities should prepare to incorporate autonomous vessels as confidence grows with a track record of safe operations over time.

Another of Kongsberg’s strengths is in marine robotics. Kongsberg is well-known for its HUGIN autonomous underwater vehicles, which are widely used in deep sea oil and gas exploration, mineral exploration, and environmental studies. But how many robots star in their own feature film? Kongsberg’s Eelume robot is an autonomous vehicle with six degrees of freedom, and it appears in The North Sea, which should be released in North America in 2022. Both vehicles do have a maritime security capability, and in today’s world, it’s widely recognized that safe civil operations depend on robust maritime security.

“Kongsberg Maritime looks forward to being an active participant in APP and helping its members deal with these challenges,” Mech says. “I look forward to working with Jane McIvor and the APP, because we have a lot to offer.”

For more information about Kongsberg’s services, visit