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Blue Innovation – Autonomous shipping – the maritime industry of the future?

Blue Innovation – Autonomous shipping – the maritime industry of the future?

One of the more controversial topics in shipping is the emergence of autonomous vessels. The feasibility of these new arrivals to the maritime field is today still quite controversial among the majority of industry experts. Nevertheless, what is certain is that, despite the uncertainty and the many sceptics, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) does not disregard these new technological alternative initiatives and continues the debate and establish a methodology for conducting trials and develop a road map to consider the projects and investments of several leading companies of the sector.

The legal framework

The viability of applying these technologies is subject to legal limitations of the sector. Since 2018 the IMO has taken the first steps to address the issue of autonomous vessels, taking into account the interests of the industry in MASS (Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships). Initially the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) approved a framework for a regulatory scope exercise, in which a work plan and preliminary steps of autonomy have been established to create a methodology that can regulate the insertion of the operability of this activity.

Alongside the discussion of the feasibility of these operations, which can be very extensive, in this blog of Blue Innovation we want to comment on the technological advances that are currently under way and consider the initiatives of different companies that are beginning to develop these technologies.

Technological framework

When thinking about autonomous shipping operations, companies and governments alike need to take in account various considerations before implementing the technologies. Land based control centres, satellites capable of tracking the positions and progress of these vessels, sensor systems, collision prevention technologies, security concerns and environmental protections are only some that would need to be addressed before maritime autonomy becomes viable. It would also be unwise not to take into consideration the “twin” of MASS – autonomous mooring systems which require sensors and automated systems not only for vessel operations but also for shorter operations in the ports of call.

What follows is a brief summary of some of the leading projects currently in development that aim to tackle these and other issues, and thus pave the way towards shipping of the future:

  • 2016: the creation of One Sea, a global conglomerate of maritime partners that joined together to lead research co-creation of high-profile ecosystems with a primary aim to create an operating autonomous maritime ecosystem by 2025. Partners as Wärtsilä, ABB, Inmarsat, Ericson, Monohakobi T.I., Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA), Shipbroakers Finland and others are working together to combine top research to “create an environment suitable for autonomous ships by 2025”.

https://www.oneseaecosystem.net/about/

 

  • May 2017: Yara company joined DNV, Shipyards Vard and Kongsberg to build MV Yara Birkeland, an 80 mts, 120 TEUs and max 10kns vessel that aims to cover a logistic need of the Yara Group and seeks to eliminate 40,000 annual truck trips by road by substituting them with maritime routes of this new vessel. In addition to being autonomous, the vessel also follows a zero-emission plan with azimuthal electric engines and a closed ballast system, equipped with sensor technology, control algorithms, communication data and connectivity that will be interlinked with the operations of its automated terminal. The idea is to start manned operations in 2020 and then, with the help of Kongsberg’s technology, gradually move to an unmanned vessel by 2022. An automated mooring system is under development by the MacGregor group and, to provide additional support to terminal operations, the Kalmar group is working on the incorporation of Automated Crane Technology (AutoRMG) that will complement the integration of zero-emission operations during the vessel’s operations in port.

https://www.yara.com/knowledge-grows/game-changer-for-the-environment/

 

 

Source: http://hugin.info/134793/R/2210941/860932.jpg

 

  • January 2018: Rolls-Royce opened the first Research & Development Centre for Autonomous Vessels. This materialized the digitization of the maritime sector with a focus on autonomous navigation and the use of artificial intelligence for the operations of unmanned ships.

https://www.rolls-royce.com/media/press-releases/2018/25-01-2018-rr-opens-autonomous-ship-research-and-development-centre-in-finland.aspx

 

  • April 2018: Wilhelmsen and Kongsberg joined forces to create the first company dedicated to the development of autonomous ship operations. The company Massterly seeks to establish infrastructures and design support services for the operations of autonomous vessels and lead the land-based control centres that will make monitoring of the operations of the vessels at sea and in ports possible. Massterly was created in Norway to support the Yara project and has Kongsberg’s experience in the technology sector and Wilhelmsen’s experience in maritime services and logistics behind it.

https://www.wilhelmsen.com/media-news-and-events/press-releases/2018/wilhelmsen-and-kongsberg-establish-worlds-first-autonomous-shipping-company/

 

  • August 2018: DNV published a Paper focused on Remote-Controlled and Autonomous Vessels in which it summarised the current situation, the operational changes in terms of navigation and other functions, regulations and motivations for implementation, and the ethical and social implications of such technologies.

https://www.dnvgl.com/maritime/publications/remote-controlled-autonomous-ships-paper-download.html

 

  • In December 2018: Finferries and Rolls-Royce publicly exposed the operational tests of the 53.8m Falco ro-ro ferry, which is adapted with sensors interconnected with artificial intelligence that contain anti-collision technologies and an autodocking system which is monitored from a ground control centre 50km from the city of Turku.

https://www.finferries.fi/en/news/press-releases/finferries-falco-worlds-first-fully-autonomous-ferry.html

 

Source: https://www.vesselfinder.com/news/14008-Rolls-Royce-and-Finferries-demonstrate-worlds-first-Fully-Autonomous-Ferry

  • December 2018: That same month, Samskip led an initiative called “Seashuttle” of an autonomous Short Sea Shipping vessel, propelled with hydrogen through the use of electrolysis, with the goal of creating more sustainable shipping alternatives. The operations route aims to cover the regular line between Poland and Norway and is supplied in maritime technologies by Kongsberg Maritime; by Hyon in the implementation of hydrogen technologies; and by Massterly in terms of operational MASS.

http://www.samskipmultimodal.com/news/press-release-1

 

The difficult steps in establishing legal precedents and frameworks to ensure the safe and efficient operations of MASS still lie ahead of us. Similarly, cyber security is still a broad field that requires detailed and extensive investigations before safe passage at sea for MASS vessels are possible. The road ahead is long and arduous, but the companies that have joined these projects have taken the first steps towards developing the technologies that will make suitable adaptations possible and thus make unmanned vessels a reality.

 

Written by:

  • Vanessa Bexiga, Operations Manager (Escola Europea – Intermodal Transport)

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Artificial Intelligence

Shipowners Still Not Ready to Give Up Control to Autonomous Vessels

Shipowners seem to be hesitant to relinquish control of their vessels in favor of autonomous solutions, as they trust their captains and crews more than smart technology.

In general, the shipping industry’s approach to new technologies has been described as “conservative“, especially when it comes to autonomous solutions that could theoretically replace the crew.

This has led to the slow adoption of solutions that are vital to reducing collisions, Yarden Gross, CEO of Orca AI revealed in an interview with World Maritime News.

In order to overcome the maritime industry’s fear of new technology adoption, the company has designed the Orca AI system to be “a tool that the crews can use, not to replace the crew.”

Established in 2018, Orca AI has the vision to reduce human-caused errors through intelligent autonomous vessels. The company was founded by Yarden Gross and Dor Raviv, who both have served in the navy and know the industry and its needs.

“We realized that despite the technological advances being adopted for other modes of transport, the shipping industry is lagging behind. This is due to a variety of factors, including that the maritime environment requires navigation and collision avoidance technology, which need to be specifically suited to the industry and that’s what we seek to provide,” Gross said.

“We want to help create an ecosystem that will lead us to autonomous ships while keeping in mind that we’re not quite there yet.”

He added that there are things that need to be done to improve safety now — providing collision avoidance technology that works for ships.

As informed, 3,000 marine collisions occur each year and more than 75% are due to errors in human judgment. According to Gross, this is alarming as current navigational tools require a significant reliance on human judgment, which leaves room for costly error.

“Our immediate goal was to create a solution that would help ships use AI safely navigate zero and extremely low visibility conditions and crowded waterways, where the majority of collisions take place. Our solution minimizes the opportunity for errors in judgment, thereby reducing the chances of collisions.”

Orca AI system

Specifically, the Orca AI system uses sensors already on board a vessel and adds separate ones as well, such as thermal and low-light cameras, and feeds the information into an AI-powered navigation system.

The system was designed to be easy to use and intuitive, given that the crew manning the bridge is occupied with a myriad of responsibilities, so the system enables them to make smarter navigation decisions more easily. There is no training required to operate the system and it doesn’t add extra work for the crew, Yarden said.

As visibility issues are common and a big contributing factor in naval collisions, Orca AI founders said they decided to tackle that issue right from the start with sensors designed for situations with poor visibility. Orca AI is currently operational and providing crews with crucial information in piloted installations on board vessels. Those pilots are continuing as the company develops new versions of the system.

Installation

Orca AI has been installed and piloted onboard several car carriers owned by Ray Carriers, the company’s first client and key investor.

Data from the voyages that have been taken since the system installation are still being analyzed, but so far everything is looking promising, Orca AI’s co-founder said.

The Orca AI system can be used on any vessel – size is not an issue, as the sensor payload is not very large or intrusive. However, the company is focusing on larger vessels first, as the challenges of collision avoidance and costs of collisions are most pronounced for this class of ships.

“Orca AI’s navigation system is fit for all types of vessels, using information from sensors already on board and supplementing them with cameras of their own in a relatively small payload. We are looking forward to working with different classes of ships, helping them safely navigate crowded waterways and avoid collisions in hard-to-see situations where their difficulty in rapidly adjusting course makes early detection of other ships a priority,” Gross told WMN.

When asked what are the prerequisites for the installation of the Orca AI solution, Gross pointed out that there are no impediments to installing the system on any ship type. The installation is said to be straightforward and the system is easy to integrate on the bridge, so the age of the ship has no impact on the process.

AI and the maritime industry

Several autonomous vessels projects are currently being developed around the world. As informed, Orca AI is in discussions with the large technology providers that are building the eco-system for the future of autonomous vessels. Gross noted that these companies understand that they cannot build everything by themselves, so they are seeking partners to collaborate with.

“An autonomous vessels are like a puzzle, there are many crucial pieces that all need to fit together, and we are trying to build the best technology in the world for one of the most important pieces of the puzzle,” according to Gross.

Artificial Intelligence, which has been the buzzword over the recent time, is becoming increasingly important for the maritime industry as well.

“AI is a tool for solving problems that have been hard to solve until now. For the maritime industry, it is enabling us to tackle issues such as detection of ships and other items on the water, and alerting and assisting the captain and the crew with the navigation of the ship,” Gross said, adding that AI is also helping solve many more problems in the industry such as logistics, predictive maintenance, internal operations, etc.

“I think that for certain use cases AI is already able to provide real value, and as the maritime industry continues to adopt AI solutions and develop them, we will see increased efficiency and safety, as well as seeing a reduction of costs across the board,” Gross concluded.

At the end of January 2019, Orca AI closed a funding round, raising USD 2.6 million. With the help of the new funds, the company plans to grow its engineering ranks and establish an office in Europe this year.

Orca AI’s key steps for moving forward will be to continue installation of the company’s system onboard more ships, which has so far proved to be a major success. Additional partnerships with other shipping companies are currently in the works and Orca AI is ramping up production to meet the growing demand.

Source: World Maritime News

IMO Begins Validating Autonomous Ship Operations

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the global regulatory body for international shipping, has started exploring how autonomous ships could operate safely, securely and in an environmentally friendly way.

As part of its investigation the IMO, which has provided the term Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) to autonomous vessels, will look into how the ship operations may be addressed in IMO instruments.

The organization’s senior technical body, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), has endorsed a framework for a regulatory scoping exercise as work in progress.

Its framework includes preliminary definitions of MASS and degrees of autonomy, as well as a methodology for conducting the exercise and a plan of work.

For the purpose of the regulatory scoping exercise, MASS is defined as a ship which, to a varying degree, can operate independently of human interaction.

However, MASS could be operating at one or more degrees of autonomy for the duration of a single voyage.

IMO categories for autonomy:

  • Ship with automated processes and decision support: Seafarers are on board to operate and control shipboard systems and functions. Some operations may be automated.

  • Remotely controlled ship with seafarers on board: The ship is controlled and operated from another location, but seafarers are on board.

  • Remotely controlled ship without seafarers on board: The ship is controlled and operated from another location. There are no seafarers on board.

  • Fully autonomous ship: The operating system of the ship is able to make decisions and determine actions by itself.

As a first step, the IMO’s scoping exercise will identify current provisions in an agreed list of IMO instruments and assess how they may or may not be applicable to ships with varying degrees of autonomy and whether they may preclude MASS operations.

As a second step, an analysis will be conducted to determine the most appropriate way of addressing MASS operations, taking into account, inter alia, the human element, technology and operational factors.

The MSC, which met for its 99th session on May 16-25, 2018, established a correspondence group on MASS to test the framework of the regulatory scoping exercise agreed at the session and, in particular, the methodology, and report back to its next session, MSC 100 on December 3-7, 2018.

Speaking at the opening of the MSC meeting, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim highlighted the importance of remaining flexible to accommodate new technologies, and so improve the efficiency of shipping — “while at the same time keeping in mind the role of the human element and the need to maintain safe navigation, further reducing the number of marine casualties and incidents”.

Source: Port Technology