Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

PhD position within the topic autonomous navigation and control of marine surface vessels

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The Department of Ocean Operations and Civil Engineering (IHB) at NTNU has a vacancy for a PhD candidate within the topic autonomous navigation and control of marine surface vessels. 

The vision of the autonomous self-sailing ship has gained a lot of attention and may be considered to be one of the hottest topics within the maritime technology domain. It is a major challenge involving handling and coordinating on-board systems, performing safe and robust navigation and motion control, providing redundant energy and propulsion, as well as handling on-board equipment such as winches, cranes, cargo, and underwater drones with a minimum of human interaction. Solving these issues in a practical and pragmatic way that caters for industrialization has an enormous potential. This unique research opportunity focuses on navigation and motion control to enable a ship to go from quay-to-quay on its own in a safe, robust, and energy efficient way. 

The project will collaborate closely with key industry players and has ambition to utilize full-scale closed-loop experiments to a large degree. Examples of relevant topics include unified motion control for stationkeeping and transit, extended situational awareness and unified operation picture, autonomous trajectory planning with collision avoidance, automated docking, tight fuel consumption optimization in all operational states, sensor fusion, control allocation, etc. 

This project consists of 1 PhD position with associated supervisors. The candidate will also be connected and cooperating with several research groups at NTNU.

Duties of the position

The candidate will develop novel methods and models for autonomous navigation and control of marine surface vessels and test these experimentally considering common constraints typically applied in industrial systems. A key part of this is to be engaged in building up laboratory facilities in order to carry out experimental work related to his/hers research, as well as relevant systems for managing prototype and development software. The main goal of the PhD project is to develop new knowledge and methods that will be a cornerstone for complex autonomous functionality and validate these experimentally.

Also, the candidate will be expected to:

  • present findings at project meetings and national and international workshops and conferences
  • write scientific papers
  • participate actively in the maritime control community at NTNU

Required selection criteria

  • Strong capabilities in analytical thinking, mathematical and physics-based modelling
  • Strong capabilities in motion control system design on a theoretical level
  • Strong programming skills, preferably in C/C++, Python, and/or Matlab
  • In-depth knowledge of hydrodynamics and familiarity with different common maritime thruster systems
  • Knowledge on statistical techniques and being able to work with them in data assessment and reporting
  • The PhD-position's main objective is to qualify for work in research positions. The qualification requirement is that you have completed a master’s degree or second degree (equivalent to 120 credits) in Mechanical/Electrical/Construction/Civil Engineering, Architecture, Computer Science, Data Science with a grade of B or better in terms of NTNU’s grading scale.
  • The appointment is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants and national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant.
  • Written and oral fluency in English.

Preferred selection criteria regarding experience:

  • documented practical skills, e.g., a diploma of skilled craftmanship
  • experience from the maritime industry
  • experience with the Robot Operating System (ROS)
  • experience with scientific experimental work
  • experience in working with and managing control hardware
  • experience in software development and management

Personal characteristics:

  • good communications skills
  • being proactive and creative
  • ability to work independently as well as being a good team-worker
  • ability to conduct research at an international level
  • keen interest in the wider context of own research, and an ability to engage in cross-disciplinary teams

We offer:

Salary and conditions

PhD candidates are remunerated in code 1017, and are normally remunerated at gross from NOK 501 200,- per annum before tax, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The period of employment is 3 years.   
Appointment to a PhD position requires that you are admitted to the PhD programme in Engineering within three months of employment, and that you participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period. 

The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants, and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU. After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

It is a prerequisite you can be present at and accessible to the institution on a daily basis.

About the application

The application and supporting documentation to be used as the basis for the assessment must be in English.

Publications and other scientific work must follow the application. Please note that applications are only evaluated based on the information available on the application deadline. You should ensure that your application shows clearly how your skills and experience meet the criteria which are set out above. 

The application must include:

  • CV, certificates and diplomas
  • Motivation letter
  • A research proposal (maximum 5 pages), briefly explaining the background and preliminary research methodology for the project (e.g. what are the main research questions and how do you want to address them?).
  • Academic works - published or unpublished - that you would like to be considered in the assessment (up to 5 works)
  • Name and address of three referees

Joint works will be considered. If it is difficult to identify your contribution to joint works, you must attach a brief description of your participation.

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal suitability.

NTNU is committed to following evaluation criteria for research quality according to The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment - DORA.

General information

Working at NTNU   
A good work environment is characterized by diversity. We encourage qualified candidates to apply, regardless of their gender, functional capacity or cultural background. 


The city of Ålesund, with its population of 50 000, will provide you with plenty of opportunities to explore a region of Norway that is famous for its beautiful scenery with high mountains and blue fjords. Ålesund itself, with its Art Nouveau architecture, is by many considered to be the most beautiful city in Norway! The Norwegian welfare state, including healthcare, schools, kindergartens and overall equality, is probably the best of its kind in the world.


As an employee at NTNU, you must at all times adhere to the changes that the development in the subject entails and the organizational changes that are adopted.

Information Act (Offentleglova), your name, age, position and municipality may be made public even if you have requested not to have your name entered on the list of applicants.

If you have any questions about the position, please contact Øivind K. Kjerstad, telephone +4797745157, email

If you have any questions about the recruitment process, please contact Linda Granmo 

Please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Diploma Supplement is required to attach for European Master Diplomas outside Norway. Chinese applicants are required to provide confirmation of Master Diploma from

If you are invited for interview you must include certified copies of transcripts and reference letters.

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PhD position within the topic autonomous navigation and control of marine surface vessels
Høgskoleringen 1 Trondheim, Norge
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