PhD Position Sustainable and Future-Ready Inland Vessel Design

PhD Position Sustainable and Future-Ready Inland Vessel Design

Published Deadline Location
20 Dec 31 Jan Delft

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What should an inland vessel design consider to be ready for a sustainable future?

Job description

Shipping is the most efficient mode of transport consuming less energy per unit of cargo compared to road, air and railway transport. At the same time, shipping accounts for 3% of global GHG emissions. As the global economy grows, total shipping emissions could account for at least 5-10% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 if no actions were to be taken. In response various policies have emerged, worldwide as well as in Europe. With its Fit for 55 policy, the EU has raised its 2030 climate ambition, committing to cutting emissions by at least 55% by 2030. This ambition applies to multiple industries, but also to shipping. A big challenge is how to achieve such reductions in a very complex system in a sustainable way; sustainable for the environment but also for the businesses involved.

The goal of the PAving THe way towards Zero-Emission and RObust inland shipping (PATH2ZERO) project is to achieve breakthrough by developing actions perspectives and sustainable business models for all parties in the inland shipping chain, thus contributing to the transition to emission-free inland shipping. The evaluation of zero-emission strategies, effectiveness of policies, technologies and assessment of the consequences of their implementation on the inland shipping system is the main objective of the project. A data-driven virtual representation of the inland shipping system will be developed for assessing the efficiency of proposed solutions capturing potential trade-offs of the interventions in the system. This digital twin will represent the system with all relevant components in a realistic way, which is to be validated by real-world data. Subsequently, future scenarios will be imposed on the digital twin, and proposed intervention measures will be applied, based on which their efficiency will be assessed together with the inland shipping sector. 

Three aspects are regarded to be vital components of the digital twin: the individual vessels, the logistic chains, and the infrastructure. As these research topics span various scales, ranging from a single vessel to an entire infrastructure network, a meso-scale agent-based approach has been selected as a suitable basis for the digital twin. Consequently, potential interventions will be considered ranging from the application of new technologies to individual vessels to policy measures that are implemented for an entire shipping corridor, or various bunker infrastructure strategies in the network. Additionally, the impact of the implemented interventions will be evaluated at any desired scale, ranging from the individual ship level and its emissions to the network level and the aggregated emissions in an entire area, or the impact on the logistic chain.

The project will be conducted in close collaboration with research institutions industrial stakeholders and governmental organizations. In total, 7 PhD students and 3 postdocs will be hired for developing a data-driven multi-level digital twin for inland waterway transport and testing the efficiency of new policies for zero-emission shipping.

This PhD will focus on the technological side of the inland vessels. New vessels will be needed to pilot new energy solutions However, with a large and long lasting existing fleet, re-fit will be an important approach to ensure sufficient green capacity will be available in the near future. Thus the concepts for new vessels, should consider the existing vessels as well. Furthermore, operational profiles will impact the best future fuel, but low water is a a threat and availability of materials and fuels is uncertain, hence flexibility, adaptability or robustness of the designs is crucial to ensure future competitiveness.

Your challenge is to find the design approach suitable to address the uncertainty and value this in the choice of solutions. Lining impact to the larger integrated future inland shipping digital twin.


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


MSc in a relevant direction with relevant knowledge being:

  • Naval architecture
  • Marine Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering

With relevant knowledge seen as:

  • Design
  • System integration
  • Systems Engineering
  • Uncertainty modelling

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
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD03263


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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Mekelweg 2, 2628 CD, Delft

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