Autonomous Ships Delayed, but Gradually Moving Forward


By Jeong SW

Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) to Trigger Maritime Technological innovations!

The Global Maritime Industry to Brace for Paradigm Shifts

Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships named by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2017 have been impacting the way the maritime industry prepares for the next innovations in the near future.

Korean giant shipyards have increasingly installed sensors and software to their engines (e.g., HiEMS) so that condition-based maintenance and data collection can be implemented. Furthermore, classification societies such as DNV GL, LR, ClassNK and BV have published technical guidelines for automated and autonomous ships since 2017. In addition, as one of the fruitions of the IMO’s regulatory scoping exercise in 2019, the organization approved in its 101st Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meeting guidelines for the conduct of autonomous ship trials.

ⓒ Maritime Insight

Research into MASS to Jumpstart

With these backdrops, Korea’s ambitious project to develop autonomous ships has finally stepped over the threshold of a formal preliminary feasibility study and stringent approval process for the purpose of R&D activities in the last October, 2019.

This six year-long R&D project with the investment of about USD 160 million will likely lay foundations for developing the element technologies adaptable to vessel navigation at sea: IoT, Big Data, AI, Remote technology, and Autonomy. What is coming soon would be the Norwegian project of around EUR 22 million, Yara Birkeland, which is known to be launched by 2022 in a fully autonomous level. The endeavors to create better ships with lesser human interventions are seeing innovations, which is, in fact, slow, but steady.

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