Smaller coastal ships suited as drones, but not big box ships
AUTONOMOUS shipping appears to be making progress with smaller coastal vessels, but experience with containerships shows, innovation and technology are not the cure-alls one might think, says Allianz insurance risk experts
AUTONOMOUS shipping appears to be making progress with smaller coastal vessels, but experience with containerships shows, innovation and technology are not the cure-alls one might think, says Allianz insurance risk experts.
'The hype around autonomous shipping has settled down a little. But solutions will take years to come about,' said Volker Dierks, Allianz head of marine hull underwriting.
In December last year, Rolls-Royce demonstrated what it claims is the world's first fully autonomous ferry on a trip between Parainen and Nauvo in Finland. The UK-based engineering group plans to bring self-guided cargo ships to the world's seas by 2025.
'Ferries may sound like a good place for automation, but I can't think of a worse place. If you take the crew off a ferry you introduce risk,' said Andrew Kinsey, Allianz senior marine risk consultant.
'I am all for automation to support the crew, but it would be foolhardy to remove crew from vessels with passengers. Innovations like autonomous vessels and ultra large container ships (ULCS) are driven by efficiency and do not automatically lead to improvements in the safety of shipping,'
In March this year, a series of autonomous operations trials were held in the North Sea off the Netherlands coast by The Dutch Joint Industry Project: Autonomous Shipping to show the decision-making process of an autonomous system in ensuring safe sailing and avoiding collisions with other vessels.
Meanwhile, Norwegian shipbuilder VARD is currently building a small autonomous electric container vessel for fertiliser company Yara, planned for launch in early 2020 with autonomous operation expected by 2022.
China is setting up a 225-square-mile test zone for autonomous ships while a group of Japanese shipping lines have formed a consortium to build remote-control cargo ships by 2025.
With widespread use of autonomous ships unlikely to happen on the high seas anytime soon, early examples are likely to be limited to smaller vessels and coastal waters.
Autonomous ships are predicted to reduce human error, a major driver of accidents, but crews are likely to have an important role on board vessels for the foreseeable future, reports Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide.