PhD Position Emission-Minimizing Operational Control for Sustainable Smart Ships

PhD Position Emission-Minimizing Operational Control for Sustainable Smart Ships

Published Deadline Location
2 Dec 31 May Delft

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Job description

The inland waterway transport sector urgently needs to reduce its emission footprint. In this PhD project you will addresses the challenges surrounding emission-minimization starting from a ship operational perspective, working towards smart sustainable inland waterway transport. The starting question is hereby: How can fleets of ships adopt more environmentally friendly, emission-aware navigation and operation strategies?

For the improvement of vessel and vessel fleet behaviour in view of environmental objectives you will take as basis the important role that digitization and communication technology will have to improve operational emission profiles of the future vessel fleet. With the advent of more accurate information, from a more diverse range of sources (onboard ships, as well on infrastructure), and ease of communication between different transport chain systems, it becomes important to consider what information is needed where, when, and at what level of accuracy. This needs to be considered from a general efficient navigation perspective, and especially with an integrated view on sustainability and operational emission profile optimization. This is important to address both for enhancement of navigation and planning systems onboard existing ships (‘digital retrofitting’), as well as when considering design choices for the next generation of (newly build) ships.

A key challenge to consider is how to trade-off emission profiles with levels of ensuring logistics alignment on expectations regarding, e.g., arrival times and other indicators for ship quality of service. As such, in this project you will propose new models and methods for emission-minimizing ship decision making (navigation, power & energy management). The overall methodology pursued here is based on a real-time control concept like model predictive control. In this concept links with digital twin representations of ship and corridor dynamics and reduced-order mathematical representations thereof, are encapsulated inside a rolling horizon framework to optimize set performance objectives. Besides the individual (single-agent) ship control perspective, specific attention will be given to the distributed (multi-agent) fleet management perspective, in which ships make use of shared information (e.g., for emission-minimized collaborative navigation and lock/bridge passage).

This PhD project is hosted by the Dept. of Maritime & Transport Technology, TUDelft, and is part of the NWO Path2Zero program. In this program universities, knowledge institutes, governmental bodies and industry work together to achieve breakthroughs towards the transition to emission-free inland shipping. During the project you will moreover directly interact with the researchers of the Researchlab Autonomous Shipping (RAS) at TUDelft to move insights from equation towards realization.      


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


Candidates for this challenging project have an MSc degree and background in systems and control engineering, sustainability, operations research, maritime technology, autonomous systems, or related areas. Familiarity and experience with data acquisition and communication, robotics, digital twins and/or machine learning are a plus. Good communication and writing skills in English and the ability to collaborate are important.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.


Delft University of Technology

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!


Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering

The Faculty of 3mE carries out pioneering research, leading to new fundamental insights and challenging applications in the field of mechanical engineering. From large-scale energy storage, medical instruments, control technology and robotics to smart materials, nanoscale structures and autonomous ships. The foundations and results of this research are reflected in outstanding, contemporary education, inspiring students and PhD candidates to become socially engaged and responsible engineers and scientists. The faculty of 3mE is a dynamic and innovative faculty with an international scope and high-tech lab facilities. Research and education focus on the design, manufacture, application and modification of products, materials, processes and mechanical devices, contributing to the development and growth of a sustainable society, as well as prosperity and welfare.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering. Do you want to experience working at our faculty? These videos will introduce you to some of our researchers and their work.


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD03189


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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