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The Warsash Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) Research Centre (WMRC) is pioneering research into maritime autonomy, from Smart Ships and Smart Ports, to the human elements of working in tandem with smart systems, and maritime teaching and consultancy.

Maritime autonomy is a key part of the future of shipping and includes both remotely operated and fully autonomous shipping. The last decade has seen rapid technological development across the globe towards making MASS a reality through the development of Smart Ships and MASS (with a small crew or un-crewed), often in combination with zero-emission propulsion systems.

Advancements in technology will make the human-machine interface even more critical for the safe and efficient operation of MASS. Although significant advances have taken place to develop MASS technologies, very little research has been carried out towards analysing the human element, the human-machine interface and seafarer training needs for working with Smart Ships, Smart Ports and MASS.


The UK Maritime 2050 Technology and Innovation Route Map identifies the role of people in the future of maritime and articulates the UK Government’s wish to retain the valuable experience of existing seafarers. It also seeks to develop and adopt continuous education models to provide the skills required in the face of advancing technologies.

In support of this aspiration, the WMRC is exploring the pedagogical, professional education, and training needs to make the workforce future-ready to operate with these technologies, either on-board MASS, or remotely from shore stations.

Read more about the Centre's aim and goals

Research themes

The Centre conducts its research activities around four core themes: Smart Ships, MASS, Smart Ports, and teaching and consultancy. These research activities include research, innovation, knowledge exchange, public engagement, teaching and consultancy activities. 

Light blue colour blockSmart Ships

  • Navigational practices
  • Information exchange
  • Cloud simulation
  • E-navigation
  • Technical operation
  • Machine learning Colregs
  • IOT at sea
  • Data Analytics
  • Simulation and optimisation
  • Augmented reality
  • Modern navigational technology

Purple colour blockSmart Ports

  • Port development
  • Port operation
  • Port CDM
  • Automated tugs
  • Shore centre
  • Resilient technology
  • Just In Time arrivals
  • Automated berthing and unberthing
  • Smart Port state control
  • Manned model
  • Digitalisation 

Yellow colour blockMASS

  • MASS training
  • Remote-controlled training for the RC MASS operators
  • MASS and cyber security
  • Robotics and autonomy
  • RC dynamic positioning systems
  • Sensor and automation system

Green colour blockTeaching and consultancy

  • Maritime accidents and investigations
  • Safety culture
  • E-tutor and e-assessment
  • Virtual learning
  • BTM, BRM, PRM courses
  • Cyber security
  • Bespoke courses
  • Human element
  • Maritime law

Centre projects

Sea Traffic Management (STM) Validation

A wide-scale European initiative under the Motorways of the Sea umbrella, focusing on implementing new digital information exchange services for the shipping and port industries.

Researchers created a virtual world in which to test the information structure proposed through the project and worked with academics from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden to run ship-to-ship route exchange simulations.

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Project MaxCMAS (MAchine eXecutable Collision regulations for Marine Autonomous Systems)

Compliance with current and future regulations is instrumental to the wide-scale exploitation of unmanned surface vessels (USVs) at sea. Satisfactory autonomous operation in accordance with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (Colregs) is pivotal to maritime safety.

Researchers aimed to demonstrate autonomous control of a USV for mine counter measure operations, and to develop broader USV applications along with navigational support for larger conventional vessels. The Warsash Maritime School’s networked bridge simulators were a safe yet effective test environment.

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IGNITE - Intelligent Ship Centre

The IGNITE project is developing a scaled demonstration and training facility for remotely operated MASS. Working with leading experts, Wärtsilä, the IGNITE project is innovatively linking the University’s Manned Model Ship Handling Centre, and Maritime Simulation Centre.

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MARTHA

MARTHA is the three-year research project successor to Project HORIZON which explored seafarer fatigue. The study found that fatigue can result in long-term physical and mental health issues and individual motivation decreases over the length of the voyage. It also highlighted that night watchkeepers get significantly less total sleep than others on board, and that Masters suffer more stress and fatigue than their crews.

The analysis of the large data set provides new insights into the psychological wellbeing of seafarers after long periods on board - including the finding that individual and social cohesion starts to suffer after six months on board.

Read more

Centre lead

The WMRC is led by Captain Zakirul Bhuiyan.

Founding director of the WMRC, Captain Zakirul Bhuiyan has over 30 years' maritime industry experience, including more than 17 years' sea experience in worldwide trade. He is experienced in navigation, operation of vessels, and management of multicultural and multinational crews. Established in the wider maritime and academic community, he is also an active fellow of numerous national and international professional and academic bodies. As a principal investigator, Zakirul has led several leading cutting-edge research and innovation projects in the field of maritime operations, simulation pedagogy, maritime human element and autonomous shipping.

Read Zakirul's profile in full

Facilities

The WMRC’s work benefits from Warsash Maritime School’s world-class facilities, including the Maritime Simulation Centre - the largest in the UK (featuring Wärtsilä technology), and the Manned Model Ship Handling Centre at Timsbury Lake - the only such facility in the UK, and one of only a few major centres in the world.

Maritime Simulation Centre

As part of Solent's £43 million investment in maritime training facilities, the Maritime Simulation Centre delivers the best in maritime training. The Centre offer specialist training for ship's officers, harbourmasters, pilots, port superintendents and a range of other maritime professionals.

Find out more

Ship Handling Centre

Timsbury Lake is the home of our scaled model ship handling centre which provides specialist training for pilots, masters and senior ship's officers. There are 11 ship models in the fleet, some of which can be reconfigured to represent several ship types.

Find out more

Contact us

For more information about the WMRC, please contact Captain Zakirul Bhuiyan, Centre Director: zakirul.bhuiyan@solent.ac.uk.

For more information about Warsash Maritime School, click here.

To find out more about Solent's Centre for Marine Sustainability, click here.