TU Berlin

Chair of Water Resources Management and Modeling of HydrosystemsDigitaler Schifffahrtsassistent

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Digital Skipper Assistant

Project head
Prof. Dr.-Ing. R. Hinkelmann
Research associate(s)
Dr.-Ing. E. Matta, A. Hassan, MSc
Scientific assistant
C. Scheer, BSc, Y. Ma, BSc
Project period
September 2017 - December 2018
Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), mFund research initiative
Project partners
BearingPoint GmbH, BearingPoint Technologie GmbH, Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG, Koblenz)
Link to the project


The current German Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan (Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure - BMVI) expects a growth of about 23% of inland navigation traffic between 2010 and 2030. With the infrastructures at the state of art, a more efficient use of the existing waterways is required. For this purpose, new approaches should be proposed especially to counteract undesired congestions on rivers and canals.

Project objective and implementation


The focus of the research project is the development of an optimized water level prediction model, whose routes and load limits can be determined in a fast and efficient way. The model aims to allow reliable multi-day forecasts of water levels for the expected journey time. The Digital Skipper Assistant (DSA) should be demand-oriented in respect to the requirements for route- and cargo-planning within inland waterways.

While the project partners are predicting water levels based on weather forecasts and hydrological model chains, it is the goal of the TU Berlin to produce such predictions using artificial neural networks (ANN). The basic idea consists of the determination of a downstream water level based on one or more measured upstream levels and possibly other variables such as precipitation measurements, provided by the partner Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG). The concept of ANN is based on the creation of a main network with several sub-networks. The main network begins with a gauge PA, with a long-term data series of water levels available, and ends at the last investigated gauge station in the Rhine (PX). The sub-network for a target gauge station PD is constructed on the data basis of the previous water levels in PC and possibly further upstream level stations and/or further variables, such as precipitation measurements. The ANNs are usually trained with approximately 70-80% of the available data and validated with the remaining 20-30% of the data that was not used for training. In a future phase, the ANN and the hydrological models can be also combined. The focus of this specific work conducted by TU Berlin is on the Rhine, being a river of great importance for inland navigation in Germany.

Project partners

The research project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) and is led by BearingPoint GmbH, in cooperation with its partners Federal Institute of Hydrology and BearingPoint Technologie GmbH. Other players in inland navigation, such as inland shippers, port operators, freight forwarders, as well as water and shipping administrative authorities (e.g. WSV) are also involved.

Further information about the project.

Catchment area of the Rhine up to gauge Emmerich, linking the hydrological and hydro-dynamic model components of the traffic-related prediction system of the Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG) for the Rhine waterways.



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