World not ready for autonomous ships

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Autonomous vessels will not be hitting the high seas just yet. Or, perhaps never in the way people imagine it, to be coasting, completely unmanned!

While the idea of autonomous vessels have been bandied around as early as the 1960s’. Yet for all for practical reasons ranging from adherence to the ISPS and ISM codes coupled with an inability to move through narrow channel straits along with all manner of communications difficulties, etc present challenges that make the adoption of unmanned, autonomous vessels as one of the toughest, if not an impossible proposition ever.

“I don’t see autonomous ships as a given”, declared Morten Lind-Olsen, CEO of Dualog (pictured), to Ship Management International.

The other concern, says Mr Lind-Olsen, is the affordability of such ships especially when it was learned at a panel discussion that 70% of the outlay for a ship’s operations are actually for communications.

Still, those are not only hurdles plaguing autonomous shipping.

Considering that IMO does not work ‘too fast’; any move towards autonomous shipping within the framework of an enforceable set of global regulations will take five to 15 years, Mr Lind-Olsen pointed out at the panel discussion.

And those regulations, he believes must cover the range of concerns from efficiency (meaning fuel efficiency), safety and the environment.

Though much of what he outlined is an overriding concern, he adds “all these investments (meaning those investments in safety, environment, and efficiency), need to enjoy returns”.

The closest thing to any autonomy he highlights is in the ‘autonomy of ship processes’ a point first raised by Dualog’s COO, Silje Moan and which he agrees to.

“It is more of an automated process. For now, it is in coastal shipping [that we see autonomous shipping]”, highlighted Silje Moan in a panel discussion, inferring as otherwise, to the sheer difficulty of having an efficiently, operable autonomous shipping fleet in the world.