Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) and the Future of Maritime Careers and Pilotage
Capt. Cahit İSTİKBAL*
In January 2017, 28m long tugboat built by Sanmar, the Svitzer Hermod, safely conducted a number of remotely controlled manoeuvres. From the quay side in Copenhagen harbour, the vessel’s captain, stationed at the vessel’s remote base at Svitzer headquarters, berthed the vessel alongside the quay, undocked, turned 360°, and piloted it to the Svitzer HQ, before docking again. This was recorded as the first maneouvering of a ship from a remote place. Onboard the tug, fully capable crew remained to intervene in the case of a need. On the other hand, Japan's shipbuilders and maritime shippers are teaming up to make self-navigating ships a reality by 2025, hoping to lead global development on a project that should dramatically reduce accidents at sea. All the recent developments with regard to autonomous ships and possibility of remote pilotage indicate that the future of some conventional careers such as ship’s captain and deck and engine crew and officers and even maritime pilots is at stake. These mentioned careers will transform or morph to a different format if do not completely extinct. Most expert views conflict on this issue, though. Some argue that ships are huge size could never be able to navigate unmanned because in the case of any communication error this can not be afforded to see ghost ships at sea with no control. Another group say that electronic systems has become reliable enough to control navigating ships at sea. Industry organizations such as IMO and NGO’s such as IMPA and IALA being prepared fort his new era. IMO and IALA improving e-navigation concept which intend to provide harmonized collection, integration, exchange, presentation and analysis of marine information on board and ashore by electronic means to enhance berth to berth navigation and related services for safety and security at sea and protection of the marine environment. As the expert views vary, there on one issue consensus is achieved which is the future of maritime careers will not the same as it is today. This article aim to find out the possibility and extent of unmanned vessels in the future and possible mutation of maritime careers to pace with the developments in autonomous ships technologhy. In conclusion, the article lists the suggestions to be taken into account by the industry and educational organizations and Administrations in their medium or long term plannings of maritime careers.
Keywords: Autonomous ships, self-navigating ships,remote pilotage, Training, Ghost Ships,, International Legislation, National Regulations
Unexpected breakdowns and accidents in a harsh and challenging marine environment can lead to the loss of ships, transported goods, collected scientific data and commercial reputation. Systems with high safety performance and a sustainable level of safety are required for this.
Marine systems are becoming more automated and autonomous, with increasing technological complexity. Auto Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (AMSS) will lead to improved maritime transportation. This development is accelerated by the pressure to reduce costs, risks, and a demand for achieving more environmental friendly and sustainable operation.
The concept of autonomous ships is not new. In 1898, Nicola Tesla, known as the father of unmanned vehicle technology, by using a small, radio-transmitting control box, was able to maneuver a tiny ship about a pool of water and even flash its running lights on and off, all without any visible connection between the boat and controller. Indeed few people at the time were aware that radio waves even existed and Tesla, an inventor often known to electrify the crowd with his creations, was pushing the boundaries yet again, with his remote-controlled vessel. Later, in the last decade of the 20th century a large number of projects have emerged. In recent years, more attention has been concentrated on unmanned ships and as a result, projects seeking to find out if larger unmanned merchant ships could navigate across the oceans. Some of the major projects launched on that matter were as follows:
AAWA (The Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative): A project funded by Finland which led by Rolls-Royce and investigating principle factors and designs enabling autonomous ships.
ReVolt: A Norwegian-funded concept study conducted by DNV-GLabout an unmanned and battery powered short-sea container vessel for the Norwegian fjords.
MUNIN (Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks): A European FP7 funded feasibility study about unmanneddry bulk shipping in deep-sea.
The reason d’etre behind the unmanned ships concept is threesome. Looking from sustainability perspective; there are three major aspects behind this concept:
− Economic sustainability: Keeping operational expenses low, especially crew-related costs, to facilitate efficient international trade,
− Ecological sustainability: Enabling new and innovative ways to reduce overall fuel consumption e.g. due to the absence of lifesupportsystems on board,
− Social sustainability: Increasing safety due to moving trivial operational tasks from fatigue crew to onboard automation and by enabling shore-based and family friendly monitoring jobs for seafarers ashore.
There are many options available for future options within the unmanned ships concept. One point is the level of autonomy. Sheridan’s levels of autonomy concept does not give a complete response to the question for maritime domain. The unmanned ships of the future will, rather, be controlled to a certain level from the shore, where the level of this control be depending on the area of navigation. It may be a concern for today but reliability seems to be the Achille’s heel for the whole concept- for operations at high seas, the unmanned ships concept would be more acceptable, but how about the densely populated areas such as ports and straits? Will the people of future accept huge vessels with no crew onboard pass nearby the ferry they use to go to work every morning? At this point, the conventional careers such as pilotage and VTS that protect the public interest by ensuring maritime safety comes forward. How these conventional careers will transform in the future when unmanned vessels replace conventional ones? Will they be distinct or morph in accordance with the new requirements?
Autonomy is a system's ability to make decisions, in order to fulfill a task, without the need for assistance of an operator or external agent during task performance. An AMS is therefore not necessarily unmanned. The level of autonomy describes the degree and extent of decision-making, problem solving and strategy implementation of the system, when faced with uncertainty or unanticipated events. When talking about autonomous ships; it should be kept in mind that there are levels of autonomy depending on the level of computer takeover. The most known scale on this issue was set out in Sheridan levels of autonomy. Sheridan proposes a 10-levels scale reflecting the degrees of automation as seen in Table 1. Clearly, Levels 2 through 4 are centered on who makes the decisions, the human or the computer. Levels 5-9 are centered on how to execute that decision. Levels 1 and 10 are extreme boundaries for either issue. Looking at the Svitzer Hermod case in the light of Sheridan levels of aoutonomy; it does not fit in either of Sheridan’s levels. Instead, this was a “remotely operated” ship maneouver during which the operator/captain was not onboard, but in a remote location where everything as same as if he was onboard the tug that was being operated. The only difference was that on the real tug he could see the real world but on remote location he had the same view on the screen.
Levels of autonomy and their adaptation to maritime
According to the Sheridan levels of autonomy; Scales, e.g., from 1 to 10, for the level of autonomy range from manual control to full autonomy, of which the latter means no possibility for intervention from the operator. Levels in between include, for example, decision making by humans and implementation by the system, so called batch processing; shared plan generation and execution of tasks, where the operators still have full decision authority, so called shared control; and plan generation and execution by the system, where the operators only intervene if necessary, so called supervisory control.
Sheridan levels of autonomy sets out the basic and well-known ranking for computer-human mixture in autonomous operations. But that does not fit for autonomous or unmanned operations in the maritime domain. The way in which the ships would be operated is still an open question.
|10||The computer does everything autonomously, ignores human|
|9||The computer informes human only if it (the computer) decides so|
|8||The computer informes human only if asked|
|7||The computer executes automatically, when neccssary informing human|
|6||The computer allows human a restricted time to veto before automatic execution|
|5||The computer executes the suggested action if human approves|
|4||Computer suggests single alternative|
|3||Computer narrows aleternatives down to a few|
|2||The computer offers a complete set of decision alternatives|
|1||The computer offers no assistance, human in charge of all decisions and actions|
From another perspective, three-levels control for autonomous ships have been set out by Porathe, Prison and Man. First, indirect control, refers to updating the voyage plan during the voyages; this could be necessary, say, due to weather changes. Second, direct control, refers to ordering specific maneuvers, such as, giving way for officials during a rescue operation. Third, situation handling, refers to bypassing the autonomous system, that is, the rudder and thrusters would be controlled directly by a remote operator.
In Sheridan’s categorization, level 1 represents the remote operations, without mentioning of it. However, as a whole, this is principally a more generic categorization. The categorization set out by Porathe, Prison and Man is more suitable for maritime use. In this 3 levels of categorization, autonomous use mentioned as direct control. However, both categorization systems have some shortcomings. In analyzing both of them, the author needed to think that a new categorization specific to maritime use would be necessary.
Keeping both categorizations in mind, I would propose a 4-levels of maritime autonomy categorization, in which, 0 represents the remotely controlled operations and 3 represents the full autonomous operations. The levels, concepts and definitions of this categorizations are mentioned in the table below:
|LEVELS OF MARITIME AUTONOMY|
|0||Remotely Operated||The vessel is operated from a remote centre.|
|1||Automatic||The vessel is operated from a remote centre under full control of remote operator. But some specific operations may be left to the computer: such as, manuel speed and course input during dynamic positioning.|
|2||Semi-Autonomous||The vessel autonomously carries out pre-defined tasks: such as collision avoidance, position reporting. Operator controls the main options.|
|3||Autonomous||The vessel navigates in full automation. This could be berth-to-berth or between waypoints; until the operator changes the level as desired.|
This categorization sets out the levels of autonomy and their definitions that would better suit the needs in maritime use.
Vessels will follow this type of dynamic autonomy approach depending on the sea area the vessel navigating in and the ship type or the cargo type. In some cases, such as navigation in the open seas, the ship can be nearly fully autonomous whereas for some parts of the voyage it will require close supervision and decision making, or even full tele-operation from the human operator.
The autonomy level could be operator-selected or authorities may require certain levels to be used –i.e. during VTS and/or pilotage waters. Therefore, it would be necessary for the future also to categorize the sea areas in which a certain autonomy mode would be used. The autonomy levels to be used in different sea areas is set out in Table-3.
|AUTONOMY LEVELS IN DIFFERENT SEA AREAS|
|SEA AREA||DEFINITION||RRECOMMENDED LEVEL|
|HIGH SEAS||Open seas such as: Atlantic Ocean, some areas of Mediterranean, Indian Ocean||3|
|COASTAL AREAS||Archipelago and existence of natural hazards to navigation||2|
|HIGH RISK AREAS||Traffis Separation Schemes, Reefs, Straits, and areas where traffic is dense, or in piracy risk||1|
|PILOTAGE WATERS||Ports&Approaches, Narrow waterways and straits||0|
Remotely Controlled Ship Maneouvering: Svitzer Hermod example
In January 2017, one of Svitzer´s tugs, the 28m long Svitzer Hermod, safely conducted a number of remotely controlled manoeuvres. From the quay side in Copenhagen harbour the vessel’s captain, stationed at the vessel’s remote base at Svitzer headquarters, berthed the vessel alongside the quay, undocked, turned 360°, and piloted it to the Svitzer HQ, before docking again. The Svitzer Hermod, a Robert Allan ship design, was built in Turkey at the Sanmar yard in 2016, and equipped with a Rolls-Royce Dynamic Positioning System, which is the key link to the remote controlled system. The vessel is also equipped with a pair of MTU 16V4000 M63 diesel engines from Rolls-Royce, each rated 2000 kW at 1800 rpm. The vessel also features a range of sensors which combine different data inputs using advanced software to give the captain an enhanced understanding of the vessel and its surroundings. The data is transmitted reliably and securely to a Remote Operating Centre (ROC) from where the Captain controls the vessel.
The Remote Operating Centre was designed to redefine the way in which vessels are controlled. Instead of copying existing wheelhouse design the ROC used input from experienced captains to place the different system components in the optimum place to give the master confidence and control. The aim is to create a future proof standard for the control of vessels remotely.
Throughout the demonstration the vessel had a fully qualified captain and crew on board to ensure safe operation in the event of a system failure.
Photo-1: Remote-Captain of the tug operating the tug Svitzer Hermod at Remote Operation Centre. (Photo: SeaNews Turkey- www.seanews.com.tr)
Voyage Planning and Initiation
Autonomous vessels will use a mix of different satellite and land based communication networks depending on their availability, quality and price. High bandwidth satellite communication systems provide the capability to operate an autonomous vessel despite the location in vast majority of autonomous operation modes. The operator will have to ensure that there is sufficient connectivity for the intended mission. Even if data transfer of autonomous ships has highest priority in these networks the operator will have to review the traffic and weather conditions in order to decide what is the primary operation strategy for each leg. From voyage planning point of view this means defining which legs shall be operated in remote control and which are executed autonomously. Once this decision has been made, the operator will have to further define navigational strategies along with fallback strategies for each leg. The fallback strategy sequence is executed only if the ship experiences an unexpected reduction in connectivity simultaneously with operational challenge which would normally require operator intervention.
Replacing the human element and the “lookout” issue
Human errors are have the biggest share maritime accidents, held responsible of 85%. Today, human operators on the bridge are exposed to fatigue, stress and adverse condition, as the bridge manning is down to a minimum. Moving the operator to the relatively protected workplace of a control room on land, some of the risks of human error can be mitigated. However, it must be respected that new types of hazards may appear in the new relationship between the unmanned vessel and the remotely located human operators which may not be fully aware of the actual conditions on the scene. This safety equation will attract much focus on the human factors research in this project, and certainly leave room for many further studies. Despite this on-going research, it can already be concluded that the development towards an autonomous vessel does at least provide a potential to increase navigational safety (Burmeister et al., 2014). Thus, MUNIN can also contribute to e-Navigation's aim of increasing navigational safety, even though MUNIN's origin is a novel approach to sustainability in shipping. In the following, these contributions shall be elaborated for certain examples.
A proper lookout is a sine-qua-non for prudent seamanship. According to Rule 5 of COLREG’s, Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing, as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.
Lookout issue is one of the bottlenecks of autonomous vessels. However, thanks to the sensor technology, it is now possible to change the lookout procedures on board ships. Subsequently ships' design is to change, also arrangement and mode of oper- ation, and it could also affect the operating economy.
Primarily, lookout is a requirement in near-coastal areas. The research project MUNIN (MUNIN, 2016) has shown that camera technology combined with computer vision in a visible and infrared area provides a safer perception of a situation than human lookout. In case of fully or partly unmanned vessels, the lookout can be replaced by a combination of different sensors, including radar and computer vision in various wave length areas (AAWA, 2016; Levander, 2017). Experiments with these systems are ongoing in several contexts. In Herman et al., 2015, sensor fusion by use of car radar technology and computer vision in the visible area is being tested. Autonomy has been tested on rather small vessels for both civilian and military use for two decades (Bertram, 2008; Manley et al., 2016). Plans for large vessels for military use are known from press clippings, but the documents as such are classified. Coming trials in Norway (Kongsberg, 2016) with an offshore vessel and in Finland with a ferry (AAWA, 2016) aim at demonstrating technology where remote monitoring is made by means of sensors and, obviously, sensor fusion. The demonstration vessels are to establish that remote operation from an operation centre ashore can monitor the safe and reliable performance of navigation and manoeuvring. With fully implemented autonomy, the vision is that ship's systems interpret the situation by themselves in relation to the surroundings and are capable of handling all situations. The view has been expressed that total autonomy is not necessarily the most appropriate or best economic solution for all types of surface vessels. Obviously, there will be a gradual transition from the current degree of navigation automation to fully autonomous navigation. There is a potential for enhanced safety, but also a debate on whether completely unmanned navigation is the solution (Bertram, 2016). Although it depends on sensor accuracy and further advances in their technology, autonomous navigation has the potential to be more reliable according to the human element.
A vessel with sensor-based lookout would not necessarily require a navigation bridge, whereas the ship's accommodation could be optimised on the basis of the need for cargo and cargo handling, rather than the need for lookout from a bridge. The mode of operation could potentially be changed so that lookout duty is not performed through physical presence on board the ship, but through a data link to shore, where monitoring – and possibly remote control – could take place. (TUD, 2017)
Reduced manning with navigating officers could be achieved through electronic lookout as a basic element in order to achieve an unmanned bridge function where computer interpretations of the ship's situation and of its surroundings are to secure autonomous navigation except in complex situations where a navigating officer would be required to take decisions and steer the ship (TUD,2017).
MASS and E-Navigation Concept
E-Navigation is a concept being developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in cooperation with industry organizations and NGOs with the aim to further reduce the risks by more harmonized and efficient use of all available data in order to minimize the human error factor in accidents (İstikbal, 2015). The concept is being primarily developed by IALA.
The development of a MASS is beyond the current scope of e-Navigation, but, however, there are several similarities between both efforts. The vessel itself will be in an autonomous mode allowing it to act independently within a certain degree of freedom, but being monitored constantly from a shore based control station (Rødseth et al., 2013).
International Maritime Organization and MASS
International Maritime Organization, on it’s 98th session which was held in London HQ between 7-16 June 2017, considered document MSC 98/20/2 (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom and United States), proposing to undertake a regulatory scoping exercise to determine how the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) might be introduced in IMO instruments, and document MSC 98/20/13 (ITF) commenting on document MSC 98/20/2.
At this session; IMO agreed on a “Regulatory scoping exercise for the use of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS)", with a target completion date of 2020.
Which maritime careers could be affected?
At 98th session of MSC, IMO recognized that MASS would have impact on many areas including safety, security, interactions with ports, pilotage, responses to incidents and marine environment. It was also noted the opinion of the majority of the delegations on the need to take into consideration the human element.
Amongst the areas that could receive impact by MASS, only the pilotage menntioned as a career. The rest mentionad are general areas.
Piloting can in the future be organised in number of different ways for autonomous vessels. One alternative is that the pilot has capabilities to take control of the autonomous vessel, or alternatively the autonomous vessel operator can hold a pilot license for the intended operation areas. Implementation of autonomous vessels will most likely start from national or regional waters and frequent routes which means that piloting procedures and practicalities with VTS can be agreed case- by-case for the first vessels (AAWA, 2016). But in either case, we should start by answering this question: will the pilotage be conducted onboard the autonomous vessel, or ashore?
In the taxonomy of MUNIN, it is a “maritime system that operates full or part time without humans in direct control” (Rødseth, Tjora, & Burmeister, 2014). Only during port approach and berthing an onboard control team is on the vessel and directly operates it from the bridge. During the main deep sea leg, an Autonomous Navigation System acts as the officer-ofthe-watch with regards to operative decision-making, while the lookout is performed by an Advanced Sensor Module (see e.g. Burmeister,Rødseth, Porathe, & Bruhn, 2014; Burmeister, Bruhn et al., 2014).
But in the future of the MASS, the bridge and crew areas does no more exist. Without the bridge and the systems supporting the crew, the ships could be lighter and carry more cargo – this would increase revenues and fuel efficiency.
On a MASS without a bridge, the pilot may take over the conning of the vessel from a remote place. This takeover could be from a state-of-the art remote control room at which the pilot feels as if she/he was onboard the bridge of the ship through the use of VR glasses having 3-D technology. But there is one issue which should be addressed: other than liability issues which is not within our context in this artice; could such a remote operation called as pilotage?
According to International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA), pilotage is only performed on ships’ bridge by a licenced pilot. Conning the ship from a remote place can not be called as pilotage, no matter it is being carried out by a pilot. IMPA has observer status at the International Maritime Organization. So far, IMPA provided no input paper at MASS discussions at IMO. The author is of the opinion that as MASS directly involves vith pilotage as mentioned by MSC 98 report, IMPA needs to be proactive and provide input. Updating pilotage definition could also be included in this work, otherwise in the mid -or rather-long term, name of the career could be changed to remote ship operators.
It should be recognized that the use of technology and autonomous systems in shipping is already a reality with onboard autonomous information systems coupled with Integrated Navigation Systems (INS) and Integrated Bridge Systems (IBS) providing state-of-the-art decision support to masters, and navigation and engineering officers on the latest modern ships. What is being proposed is scoping the current regulatory framework for needed revisions to shift the management and control of ship to a remote shore-based operator via a satellite-based communication link on unmanned ships on international voyages.
The issue is also larger than just unmanned ships. Autonomous remotely controlled ships could be partially manned with crew or personnel that do not include a master or qualified navigation and engineering watch officers as all decisions and control are with a shore-based operator. Such ships present many of the same issues as unmanned ships and should be included in any scoping exercise.
The scoping and possible revision of regulations should not take place in isolation from their potential consequences. The scoping of regulations to accommodate remotely controlled or unmanned ships should also scope the possible consequences of any revision on the safety of shipping from a technical and human element perspective. As well as the legal implications for established general maritime law, and the possible conflicts with other international documents, such as UNCLOS.
The proposed outputs are narrowly focused on only the needed regulatory revisions to allow unmanned ships to engage in international voyages. This is based on acceptance of an unverified assumption that unmanned ships are equally as safe and reliable as manned ships. That assumption needs to be examined in the scoping exercise and include reliability, robustness, resiliency and redundancy of the underlying technical, communications, software and engineering systems.
It is anticipated that autonomous ships in international trades will evolve progressively in stages with different levels and mix of autonomous systems. Each stage may present different technical, legal, regulatory and operational issues. The proposed scoping exercise to merely identify which IMO documents need to be revised to permit the operation of unmanned ships underestimates the complexity of the issues that need to be addressed.
There is a need to address the problem: a lack of a common definition of an autonomous ship. To reach a consensus on appropriate regulation there is a need for clarity as to what ships and level of autonomy is being discussed.
A scoping exercise should include a review of IMO treaty regimes and UNCLOS provisions and their implications for unmanned ships by the IMO Legal Affairs Office.
* THIS PAPER WAS SUBMITTED AT PILOTAGE / TOWAGE SERVICES AND TECHNOLOGIES CONGRESS’17 27TH -28TH OCTOBER 2017, HILTON, İZMİR, TURKEY
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