Summer is over; many people were once again on the way to their holiday with the most popular mode of transport for long distances, the airplane. An alternative currently offered by only a few shipping companies, is travelling on cargo ships.
In the framework of CargoRider, researchers at St. Pölten UAS together with students of the bachelor programme Media Technology developed the prototype of a platform that allows travel booking on cargo ships.
Holiday with time and a spirit of adventure
Travel by ship has become rare because it is offered almost only in the luxury sector. Huge floating 5-star hotels more likely appeal to well-off and older people. Thereby, a slow discovery of the world is provided for young people with time and a spirit of adventure.
The function of the platform should be relatively simple; by means of a map, all European inland ports are charted. By clicking on a port, all ships departing from there in the days following are listed. Registered users can submit a request for a desired ship. On the platform one can see which ports are accessible from a certain harbour.
"The project wanted to explore whether a platform comparable to the railway InterRail can be built, one which offers an alternative to air travel especially for young people ", explained Frank Michel Berger, head of the project and the Carl Ritter von Ghega Institute for Integrated Mobility Research at St. Pölten UAS.
Additionally, in the framework of the project along with the prototype platform, a possible business model was developed. The assumed target group were young people with low and middle income and an interest in slowed down alternative travel.
Also examined in the project were legal parameters: for instance, transport conditions, accommodation on the ships, catering, rights and obligations of the passengers; as well as co-operation between agencies, shipping companies, ports and maritime industry organizations / companies.
Great interest in cargo ship travel
Concomitantly a survey was conducted concerning the attitude and wishes for cargo ship travel; it showed great interest. Important to the respondents were the possibility of travelling together with friends and acquaintances, the opportunity to go ashore and contact with the crew. Visiting cities and navigating beautiful routes were most often given as motivation for travel.
"The service is interesting for the target group and feasible from a technical and legal point of view. It would remain a niche product, but based the outlined business model it definitely has prospects. However, a strong cooperation is required with, e.g. shipping companies or agencies", said Peter Judmaier, UAS lecturer in the Department of Media and Digital Technologies at St. Pölten UAS.
The first prototype of the platform offers along with the booking function, a personal travel diary; travellers can record on their mobile phone feelings and impressions of the trip.
The CargoRider project was funded by the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology in the framework of the program Mobility in the Future. The Department of Media and Economics at St. Pölten UAS took part in the development of the business model.