One Sea, the industry alliance that brings together leading exponents of autonomous ship technology, has published an autonomous ships and safety at sea white paper
The paper examines the safety advances achieved by and expected from autonomous ship technology, with the aim of driving the consultative process forward towards a revised set of maritime regulations. It considers today’s safety framework, cybersecurity, views from ship owners and operators, consequences for labour and insurance, and the classification implications for varying levels of autonomy, before offering a proposal for next steps by the industry.
In his foreword to the Autonomous ships and safety at sea white paper, Capt. Eero Lehtovaara, Chairman of One Sea, writes: “Not only can autonomous ships greatly contribute to increasing productivity, bolstering sustainability and improving working conditions at sea; direct and powerful contributions to enhancing maritime safety have also been identified.
“Technology advances however are dependent on regulatory frameworks. As a group of technology pioneers with some of the world’s most distinguished marine automation technology innovators and enables, One Sea has considerable knowledge and expertise to share as new rules and regulations are developed.”
The need to develop harmonised international safety rules covering autonomous ships is now pressing, the Autonomous ships and safety at sea white paper goes on to argue. As a priority, One Sea seeks to engage regulators, insurers, representatives of maritime labour, training establishments, flag administrations and classification societies in the dialogue that to shape the future of autonomous shipping to the satisfaction of all.
Today’s safety framework
We sometimes envisage the world’s seas populated by autonomous vessels, operating in a coordinated network alongside traditional vessels manned by seafarers. But in the real world, experts across most of shipping’s skill sets believe this scenario is still some years ahead.
That is not to say, however, that we should not embark on the voyage. Every digital advance, every autonomous development offers potential to raise safety standards, improve efficiency, and improve the life and working conditions of millions of seafarers. Potential benefits include a reduced risk of human error, improved safety of life at sea, more shipboard capacity for cargo and/or fuel, and improved productivity.
In a topical instance, a recent Tradewinds article revealed that the ultra large container ship, Ever Given, which caused one of shipping’s highest-profile accidents when she grounded and blocked the Suez Canal, actually had two pilots on board at the time.
Interviewed by the newspaper, Capt. John Dolan, Standard Club’s Deputy Director of Loss Prevention and head of the International Group of P&I Clubs’ subcommittee on pilot safety, said that vessel monitoring technology could play a role in reducing accidents and aid the sometimes poor communication between ship masters and pilots.
Download the white paper: Autonomous ships and safety at sea white paper
Read another article related to white paper: ABS publishes guidance on reduced manning requirements for safe operations