Innovations in Autonomous Shipping
Technology has advanced rapidly over the last decade, making MASS (Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships) a real possibility.
During Maritime UK Week (10-16 October), Associate Professor Capt. Zakirul Bhuiyan looks at maritime autonomy.
Maritime autonomy, which encompasses both remotely operated and fully autonomous shipping, is considered as the future of shipping. Technology has advanced rapidly over the last decade, making MASS (Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships) a real possibility.
Cutting-edge research activities are being undertaken around the world, and the maritime industry is developing Smart Ships and MASS (with a small crew or un-crewed), often in combination with zero-emission propulsion systems.
To safeguard the seas and people, operational guidelines for MASS trials - in regions specifically designated for conducting tests of autonomous technologies and systems – are being issued by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and numerous other maritime administrations.
Numerous MASS related research projects and initiatives are in progress. The UK-led Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) project - an initiative led by marine research non-profit organisation ProMare with support from IBM and a global consortium of partners - has been investigating the potential of artificial intelligence and automation to navigate the ocean in search of data and discovery.
In Asia, The DFFAS (Designing the Future of Full Autonomous Ship) collaboration successfully tested a fully autonomous ship between Tokyo Bay and Ise Bay at the beginning of the year. While a consortium comprising of NYK and several NYK group companies is participating in the joint technological development programme for the demonstration of fully Autonomous Ship under the project "MEGURI 2040", administrated by the Nippon Foundation.
Exploring ways in which to make the industry more sustainable, the first entirely battery-operated, zero-emission autonomous container ship, Yara Birkeland, also underwent a successful trial between two ports in Norway this year.
Here at Solent, researchers from the Marine Sustainability and Warsash MASS Research Centres (WMRC), are currently exploring the impact of these MASS innovations on the human element of shipping through the IGNITE (Intelligent Ship Centre) project.
Solent University is the only institution worldwide with both advanced manned model and simulation capability. Working with leading experts, Wärtsilä, the IGNITE project is innovatively linking the manned model and simulation centre.
Funded by MarRI-UK/DfT, IGNITE is developing a unique testing and training facility for scaled maritime autonomous technologies. It aims to provide facilities for safe development, testing, and training of MASS operations, including during high-risk and dangerous manoeuvres such as pilotage, and port manoeuvring. The project is developing a scaled demonstration and training facility for remotely operated MASS.
By exploring the impact of these innovations on the human aspect of shipping, IGNITE is looking at ways to prepare the workforce for the future, operating cutting-edge technologies either onboard MASS or remotely from shore stations.
Associate Professor Capt. Zakirul Bhuiyan is Director of the Warsash MASS Research centre