According to Mike Ford, VP, Commercial Operations, at Wärtsilä Dynamic Positioning, trends are pointing towards harbour tugs being among the first vessel classes to become autonomous.
Mr Ford made the comments at the European Dynamic Positioning Conference in London, citing improvements in safety and lower operating costs through less crew as the reason harbour and terminals are likely to focus on developing autonomous tugs first.
Mr Ford said: “This is a technical trend that we are seeing. We may have autonomous tugs towing and manoeuvring autonomous container ships.”
There is a strong case for autonomy in operations as, according to a report published by insurance company Allianz in 2012, between 75 and 96% of marine accidents are a result of human error, often caused by fatigue.
In PTI’s technical paper, ‘The Smart Ship: The Future of Maritime Intelligence’, Oskar Levander, Rolls-Royce, Vice President of Innovation – Marine, said that remote controlled and autonomous ships will reduce the risk of injury and even death amongst ship crews, as well as the potential loss of, or damage to, valuable assets.
“Remote controlled and autonomous ships will allow vessels to be designed with a larger cargo capacity, better hydrodynamics and less wind resistance. With no crew to accommodate certain features of today’s ships – for example, the deck house, the crew accommodation and elements of the ventilation heating and sewage systems – these can all be removed. This will make the ship lighter, cutting energy and fuel consumption, reducing operating and construction costs and facilitating designs with more and different space for cargo.”