Automation presents a set of unique challenges to designers, insurers and operators of ships. In this article, reprinted from the Shipowners P&I Club website Keir Gravil, a naval architect at Frazer-Nash Consultancy in Bristol, UK discusses some of the key issues that could face automated ships of the future from a design perspective.
It is a truth recognised by many industries that the future of transportation lies with greater automation. Over the last 50 years we have seen huge changes not only in shipping, but in every form of transportation and vehicle. Aircraft now incorporate automation routinely on flights around the world, cars are being developed to drive themselves and many railways have been totally automated for some time. As each step in the evolution of transportation progresses, the human element of control is reduced or eliminated altogether. But what of shipping? Surely an industry the size and scope of international shipping faces unique challenges in the realm of automation?
Rolls-Royce has opened a state-of-the-art research facility in Turku, Finland, to develop the technologies Rolls-Royce and its partners require to shape the future of an increasingly more autonomous global shipping industry.
The new Research & Development Centre for Autonomous Ships includes a Remote and Autonomous Experience Space aimed at showcasing the autonomous ship technologies Rolls-Royce has already introduced as well as those in the development stage.
Commenting on how the Rolls-Royce R&D centre further strengthens Finland’s commitment to developing autonomous transport, Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner, said: “There is great global interest in autonomous vehicles and vessels as a future means of transport. The opening of the Rolls-Royce Research & Development Centre for Autonomous Ships here in Turku, a maritime city with a history of technological innovation, will help achieve our goal of digitalising the country’s transport sector.”
Rolls-Royce has announced it is considering the sale of its loss-making commercial marine business, on the context of embarking on simplifying its complex business simplification of business. This may result in a reduction from five operating businesses to three core units based around Civil Aerospace, Defence and Power Systems.
As part of this exercise, the company plans to consolidate Naval Marine and Nuclear Submarines operations within the existing Defence business, and Civil Nuclear operations within the Power Systems business, to facilitate a more fundamental restructuring of support and management functions in particular.
A six metre long model of the final design of the autonomous and zero emission container vessel “Yara Birkeland” was launched in SINTEF Ocean’s sea laboratory in Trondheim, Norway, on 28 September.
In May, Yara announced the partnership with technology company Kongsberg to build the world’s first electric container ship.
The vessel will be built and put to use late 2018, as part of Yara International’s logistics value chain at the plant in Porsgrunn, Norway. The project is a collaboration between Yara and KongsbergGruppen, a Norwegian technology company.
ABS has confirmed that it plans to join the Unmanned Cargo Ship Development Alliance to work with industry partners, including class organisations, shipyards, equipment manufacturers, surveyors, designers and others to contribute to the advancement of autonomous shipping.
The design will integrate features of independent decision-making, autonomous navigation, environmental perception and remote control.
The general public is well aware of the continuing development of autonomous vehicles. The media constantly provides stories on the advances of these self-driving cars, trucks and cabs. Autonomous vehicles are expected to increase safety while also resulting in significant cost savings in the transportation of goods.
While not receiving the same amount of media coverage, the technology for autonomous ships is also rapidly developing. Earlier this year, a Norwegian partnership announced plans to build the world’s first fully-autonomous containership. The goal is for manned voyages to begin in 2018, with unmanned voyages to begin in 2020.