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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 furthermore pivotal to maritime safety. Machine execution of the Colregs has been investigated in limited circumstances and this project aims to develop a more comprehensive capability and demonstrate satisfactory execution in real-world representative sea trials.

With support from staff at the Warsash School of Maritime Science and Engineering, the industrial participants aim to:

  • demonstrate autonomous control of a USV for mine counter measure operations, and
  • develop broader USV applications along with navigational support for larger conventional vessels.

A key innovation will be the use of Warsash’s networked bridge simulators as a safe yet effective test environment. These highly immersive simulators, ordinarily used for mariner training, will be used to rapidly iterate development in light of human reaction from the crew of a virtual vessel encountering a synthetic autonomous vessel.

Public impact

Through the dissemination the general public will benefit from the raising of general awareness of marine autonomous systems. In addition to the named collaborators, the following is a list of potential beneficiaries who may directly or indirectly gain from the proposed research including:

  • Worldwide marine and maritime research community;
  • USV vendors;
  • Navies;
  • Shipbuilding and shipping industry;
  • Robotics research community;
  • IMO; and
  • United Kingdom on the whole by gaining a competitive edge in this technology.

The public impact of the project will be realised in the following ways:

  • Developing validated assistive technologies onboard
  • Educational and training materials for specific courses in this field
  • Informing the curriculum for merchant navy personnel beyond current mandatory requirements
  • Advice and guidance to the shipping community about the implementation of marine autonomous systems

Input to other research projects about the impact of marine autonomous systems.

Academic impact

The main academic beneficiaries of this project will be from three major groups:

  1. Individual students and staff, military and commercial shipping company personnel. 
    Warsash will provide training services to operators and others actively involved in the use of automated vessels. These may be personnel who actually operate "unmanned vessels", or will be monitoring spaces in which automated vessels may operate. This could be both ship and shore-based personnel from a variety of maritime sectors.
  2. International seafarers and their companies, maritime college lecturers, students and staff on maritime courses at international maritime universities. 
    Warsash will have the potential to provide training services to the wider shipping community. These services may be in the form of "awareness" of automated vessels courses, or simulator-based courses to allow seafarers and others to experience situations which involve automated vessels and unmanned vessels.
  3. International academic researchers in the field of marine autonomous vehicles. 
    Warsash will provide use of the simulator facilities as a test-bed and research tool for investigating issues affecting the practical operation of automated vessels. This may include research into further advanced collision avoidance techniques, remote sensing, communication and control issues, and the development of rules and best practice for operating environments with automated vessels.

In addition to these services, as an academic institution, Warsash expects to publish papers for journal and conference with information appropriate to the public domain, which will raise the impact of autonomous vessels to the shipping industry in particular and the general public.

Computer generated image of an autonomous vessel

Computer generated image of autonomous vessels

Images courtesy of Rolls-Royce

Conferences and papers

COMPIT, May 2016

COMPIT, May 2017

IFAC 2017

Meet the team

Captain Zakirul Bhuiyan, Senior LecturerCaptain Zakirul Bhuiyan, Senior Lecturer, Research Development and Consultancy, Bridge Simulation
Captain Zakirul Bhuiyan is co-investigator on the project and is directly involved in designing the simulator test scenarios and dissemination of the project. Zakirul has over 25 years' maritime industry experience and his time at sea was mainly spent in world-wide trade, which gave him a wide range of experience of navigation, operation of vessels and management of multicultural and multinational crews.

Zakirul has been working as senior lecturer, bridge simulation at Warsash Maritime Academy since May 2006. In his present role, he is the simulation section lead for research projects and consultancy developments. He is presently working for the execution of the Solent University work packages associated with the UK Innovate unmanned ship project MAXCMAS and the EU-funded Sea Traffic Management. He has also been acting as project co-ordinator in the EU funded MariEMS (Maritime Energy Management Training Strategic Partnership) project. He contributed to both the HORIZON and MARTHA projects on seafarer fatigue. Previously, he had been the course manager for various bridge simulator courses at Warsash.

Zakirul's most recent achievements include representing Warsash at various professional venues organised by the Nautical Institute, RIN, MCA, IMO, IHO, MAIB, MNTB, UKHO, OCIMF and different shipping companies. He has been invited as a speaker for numerous international conferences, and his articles on ECDIS, e-Navigation, autonomous ships and simulation training have been published in a number of international journals and publications. He has been invited to join the UK delegation to the IMO HTW (Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping) sub-committee sessions as a member of several drafting and working groups in 2015 and 2016. He sits on a number of industry working groups such as a member of UK MASRWG (Marine Autonomous Systems Regulatory Working Group) and Society of Maritime Industries, UK. Being a Fellow of the Nautical Institute and Royal Institute of Navigation, he has established good networks in the wider maritime community.

Zakirul has completed a master’s degree in International Maritime Studies - Shipping Ports and Environment from Solent University. He was awarded a bachelor’s degree and HND in Nautical Science and completed his PGCE from Portsmouth University. He has an MBA, which he completed this year with distinction.

Captain Ivor Salter, Senior Lecturer, Petrochemical
Ivor is an investigator on the project and is directly involved in defining the simulator test scenarios. Ivor is a master mariner who did his first degree at Cardiff University in Maritime Commerce. He then progressed from command to superintendency, and was employed by two shipping companies where, as part of his duties, he oversaw the building of ships, docking of vessels and worked with the chartering team to arrange charters and the purchase, sale or hire of vessels. After 23 years in the Merchant Navy, Ivor has worked for a variety of companies, from the very best tanker companies to some of the more interesting vessels. He has diverse experience on many ship types and sizes, including chemical, oil tankers, bulk carriers and gas carriers. He contributed to both the HORIZON and MARTHA projects on seafarer fatigue. He has an MSc in International Maritime Studies and is author of Business & Law for The Mariner.

Terry Mills, Maritime Simulation TechnicianTerry Mills, Senior Technician
Terry is a senior technician within the simulation department of Warsash Maritime Academy. A former Royal Navy submariner serving as chief weapons systems engineer, he also took responsibility for installation and operation of a submarine command team trainer at HMS Dolphin submarine school.

He joined Warsash Maritime Academy in 1995 and has designed and built control systems for manned models at the Ship Handling Centre. He also installs and maintains the bridge simulators at Warsash.

Terry has worked on research projects such as Windsails and HORIZON and is currently engaged in MAXCMAS as a critical member of the project management team.  His expertise in control systems is helping the various partners’ innovations interface with the bridge simulators at Warsash.

Emeritus Professor Mike Barnett
Mike is an adviser to the project on design and specification of the simulator test protocols.  Mike is Emeritus Professor of Maritime Safety at Warsash Maritime Academy. After a seafaring career to chief officer rank, Mike joined Warsash in 1985 as a lecturer in tanker safety. He was awarded a PhD from the University of Wales, Cardiff in 1989 for his work on human error and the use of simulation in training for emergencies.

Mike was Head of Research at Warsash from 1991 to his retirement in 2015, directing its research strategy and several externally sponsored national, European and international research projects, relating to maritime human factors, including both HORIZON and MARTHA projects. Mike was at IMO for the revision of STCW in 1995 and again in 2010 for the Manila amendments, and has now been invited to join the UK delegation to the IMO sessions on the revision of the fatigue guidelines in 2016 and 2017.

Mike is a Chartered Marine Scientist, Fellow of the Nautical Institute and Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST). In 2012, he was awarded the UK Merchant Navy medal for his contribution to maritime safety and research.

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