Using Space to Improve the Safety of Multi-modal Dangerous Goods Transport

Using Space to Improve the Safety of Multi-modal Dangerous Goods Transport


S Gustafsson, N Huebner, European Space Agency, INT; V Cocqueel, Vitrocicet Belgium, BE


The SSMART project is developing solutions for managing the multimodal transport of dangerous goods. It integrates space and terrestrial systems in a programme part funded by the European Space Agency.


The importance of monitoring and managing the transport of dangerous goods is well recognised, given the potential damage it can cause to the population and the environment in case of an accident.

Better solutions are still needed and the challenge of developing reliable services for tracking, management and response are compounded when multi-modal transportation is invovled, requiring movement by road, rail and water, sometimes across international borders.

To address these challenges, a group of European stakeholders, all of whom are involved in dangerous goods transport, is developing new solutions that combine the capabilities of terrestrial systems with those that can be provided from space. These include satellite navigation, earth observation and communications. The solutions are being developed through a project known as SSMART.

The funding mechanism used to support the development of the envisaged solutions is the Integrated Applications Promotion programme of the European Space Agency, commonly known as IAP. It is a programme that works across all civil market sectors, encouraging the integration of space and non-space systems in order to deliver new services that meet everyday needs.

The main issues identified by the stakeholders were:
- lack of comprehensive, real time data about cargo position and status;
- lack of a reliable fleet management system giving information relevant to the transportation of dangerous goods;
- lack of timely notifications to users and authorities about accidents or situations in which population is at risk;
- difficulties in understanding the possible consequences of dispersion of dangerous products in the environment.

The project therefore assessed the following capabilities:
- monitoring the status of vehicles and cargoes, including variables such as position and temperature by making use of onboard sensors with redundant data links with wide area coverage;
- coordination of information exchange between commercial users and authorities involved in dangerous goods transport and contingency management;
- use of earth observation data to model dispersion and environmental impact;
- a service centre for routine tracking of dangerous goods as well as information for emergency management.

At the end of 2011 the SSMART project team successfully completed an initial year-long feasibility study, which included a business viability analysis and a road map towards a larger demonstration phase. This is now underway, with the aim of delivering a pre-operational service and then full implementation.


Association for European Transport