The world’s first fully autonomous cargo ship is under construction in Norway, with completion slated for 2020, but automation is being adopted for commercial fleets right now as tech experts enter into partnerships with industry suppliers.
Norwegian chemical company Yara, which commissioned the zero-emissions, electrically powered container ship, is one of several major corporates actively engaging with autonomous technologies that will transform the marine freight industry.
Samsung’s shipbuilding division Samsung Heavy Industries is adapting Amazon’s AWS cloud services to develop an autonomous shipping platform which will incorporate machine learning, augmented and virtual reality for training simulations, as well as analytics, databases and storage.
In June 2018 Norwegian marine equipment supplier Kongsberg acquired Rolls-Royce Commerce Marine and its research and development of autonomous marine technology. Kongsberg has now partnered with shipping supplier Wilhelmsen in a joint venture, Massterly, as a supplier of autonomous technology.
Start-ups on board
While fully autonomous ships will roll slowly off international production lines, retrofitting of existing fleets offers rich opportunities for tech start-ups such as United States-based Shone, which recently partnered with shipping carrier CMA CGM to supply piloting systems. The technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) combined with data from existing ship sensors to provide information about other vessels’ movements.
Another US start-up, Sea Machine Robotics, also partnered with Maersk earlier this year to trial its situational awareness SM400 autonomous control system on one of its container ships.
The benefits to the shipping industry include
- reduction in accidents due to human error (75–95% of marine accidents)
- savings in crew costs such as provisioning, salaries and insurance (up to 30% of voyage cost)
- energy efficiency as vessels convert to electric power
- optimised logistics derived from digitised supply chain information and increased connectivity.
Need for adaptation
An estimated 90% of global trade is by sea and these developments signal the imminent transformation of the marine industry, fast-tracking the need to update international regulations governing shipping.
In May 2018 the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a branch of the United Nations, started developing a framework for autonomous shipping regulations for maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) through to varying levels of autonomy including
- human crew using autonomous technology systems
- vessels remotely controlled from land
- fully autonomous ships.
Reassessing insurance needs
"Autonomous marine systems are becoming ever more popular across a range of industries including defence, science and offshore energy," says Gallagher Marine Client Manager Mark Rudman.
"With Gallagher expertise in insuring specialist vessel we understand that when choosing new vessels to expand their fleet clients will be beginning to consider both designing and acquiring vessels that will incorporate some level of autonomy.
"Gallagher has developed a series of strategies aimed at equipping our clients with information and advice on the operation of autonomous vessels, by providing insight into both the opportunities and risks, and by addressing key conversations about legal liabilities and emerging cover requirements."
Key risk management considerations include
- preparedness – putting preventative and preparatory measures in place to help a business adapt to and face volatility
- response – a basic measure of a business adaptive capacity under adversity. Resilient organisations find a balance between pre-planning, monitoring and reactive capabilities
- recovery – combines the responsiveness of the organisation with its ability to continue in the face of disruption, while simultaneously commencing recovery after an incident.
Want to know more about marine risks?
Gallagher has released a new report entitled The 5 most challenging emerging risks facing the Australian maritime industry. Download the report below.