Autonomous Ships of the future

This has been posted in another thread, but I think it deserves it’s own thread as it is an important topic which will influence the future of shipping and prospects for seafarers of the future.

The autonomous ship is coming, whether we like it or not: http://www.unmanned-ship.org/munin/about/

It is already technically possible to have a vessel sail across oceans unmanned, but it will take some years before it becomes legally possible:http://www.theverge.com/2015/10/12/9…ipping-illegal

But some of the biggest and most innovative ship designers and equipment manufacturers are already on the job to make it a reality, sooner rather than later: http://www.rolls-royce.com/media/pre…h-project.aspx

The subject is going to be debated at a symposium in Amsterdam this coming summer: http://www.autonomousshipsymposium.com/

Your opinion and comments are invited.

I think it’s a long way off.

For many reasons including regulatory, security, and financial. Full automation sounds great until the ship breaks down or is hijacked, or the computers are hacked, and the ship turns into a floating weapon.

They are just so damned eager to put every single skilled person out of work, aren’t they? Save for the few who will build these monstrosities and they are no doubt the same ones who provide the electronic security for the ones who order this destruction of labor.

The first unmanned naval craft in the Singapore Navy is already in active service, after 24 months of trial in Singapore waters, which is among the most trafficked in the world: http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/-vigilant-class-independent-unmanned-surface-vessel/

Before anybody jump on me for being biased and anti-American, here is the US Navy’s autonomous swarm boats: http://www.wired.com/2014/10/navy-self-driving-swarmboats/

There are also larger drone boats under development for the US Navy: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/darpa-is-building-an-autonomous-submarine-hunting-drone-boat

I’m sure other Navies and defense contractors are working on other projects in line with these.
The Russians sure are: http://tass.ru/en/defense/851157

As well as the Royal Navy in the UK: http://home.bt.com/news/uk-news/royal-navy-developing-drone-boat-11364011413027

Yes I know that it is a long step from small crafts for defense use to sailing a VLCC port to port unmanned.

Initially we may see remote controlled short sea vessel, rather than fully autonomous large vessels. The trend is already there.

[QUOTE=ombugge;180911]The first unmanned naval craft in the Singapore Navy is already in active service, after 24 months of trial in Singapore waters, which is among the most trafficked in the world: http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/-vigilant-class-independent-unmanned-surface-vessel/

Before anybody jump on me for being biased and anti-American, here is the US Navy’s autonomous swarm boats: http://www.wired.com/2014/10/navy-self-driving-swarmboats/

There are also larger drone boats under development for the US Navy: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/darpa-is-building-an-autonomous-submarine-hunting-drone-boat

I’m sure other Navies and defense contractors are working on other projects in line with these.
The Russians sure are: http://tass.ru/en/defense/851157

As well as the Royal Navy in the UK: http://home.bt.com/news/uk-news/royal-navy-developing-drone-boat-11364011413027

Yes I know that it is a long step from small crafts for defense use to sailing a VLCC port to port unmanned.

Initially we may see remote controlled short sea vessel, rather than fully autonomous large vessels. The trend is already there.[/QUOTE]

Short sea vessels carrying non-hazardous goods may very well come first. Or, perhaps we may see an automated replacement for hydrographic survey vessels like the NOAA ship THOMAS JEFFERSON. But any such change will come very slowly and very cautiously, and expect an accident to set things back. We aren’t talking about a Google car here. A Google car hits something (and this has happened), they reprogram and regroup. An automated ship runs into a bridge and spills fuel and cargo, different story.

And can you even begin to imagine the port state control issues? Class societies? aghhh…

Port Control issues will probably be less since there are no LSA to check and no ISM to be complied with, at least not on board.
One problem is that there are nobody to fight a fire by manual and conventional means, but I would assume that there will be automated system, like water mist for both engine spaces and cargo compartments.

As for Classification Societies they are actively involved in the development o Autonomous ships from the very start.
At least DNV-GL is. Here is their own design for an autonomous short sea ship: https://www.dnvgl.com/technology-innovation/revolt/index.html

Who will buy all the shit for these ships to move once every factory worker, grocery cash register person, truck driver, mariner etc is out of work?

Amen to that, or are we all to take up becoming professional student protestors and go on the gumm’int dole? That’ll pay for those goods. That seems to be the most popular chosen profession these days. Ya feel me homie?

Airplanes are pretty darn automated (big ones). But when they are flying, they are also in direct control of air traffic control on the ground. This solves lots of issues with them running in to each other.

Out in the open water, there isn’t anybody in control like ATC. Humans use judgement to make decisions. What if one ship approaching has Asian programming and the other has Western Euro and a third has USA…and somebody mixed up the units of measurement. Will it crash like the Mars lander?

When reading about this, the first thing that came to mind is what happens if or better said when the GPS craps out?

It’s bad enough on how much we all depend on Technology but to put total trust in it to sail Thousands of miles unmanned makes me a little more than worried!

[QUOTE=johnny.dollar;180954]Airplanes are pretty darn automated (big ones). But when they are flying, they are also in direct control of air traffic control on the ground. This solves lots of issues with them running in to each other.

Out in the open water, there isn’t anybody in control like ATC. Humans use judgement to make decisions. What if one ship approaching has Asian programming and the other has Western Euro and a third has USA…and somebody mixed up the units of measurement. Will it crash like the Mars lander?[/QUOTE]

There will not be any confusion of units. The metric system will apply on all systems, regardless of were the ship is built or flagged.
Any communication with other vessels, manned or unmanned, will be in English and electronically generated. (AIS, warning messages etc.)

Besides there will be no humans there to get confused, or to speak in different languages.

There was a joke going around when the idea of reducing manning gradually down to zero was first discussed:
“They should at least leave the Captain, and a parrot to keep him company”.
“Why leave the Captain on board alone??”
“To feed the parrot”.

[QUOTE=ombugge;180918]Port Control issues will probably be less since there are no LSA to check and no ISM to be complied with, at least not on board.
One problem is that there are nobody to fight a fire by manual and conventional means, but I would assume that there will be automated system, like water mist for both engine spaces and cargo compartments.

As for Classification Societies they are actively involved in the development o Autonomous ships from the very start.
At least DNV-GL is. Here is their own design for an autonomous short sea ship: https://www.dnvgl.com/technology-innovation/revolt/index.html[/QUOTE]

Do you actually think they will chuck out the ISM and not write a new safety code of some sort for automated ships?? What the hell are you smoking?

[QUOTE=catherder;181013]Do you actually think they will chuck out the ISM and not write a new safety code of some sort for automated ships?? What the hell are you smoking?[/QUOTE]

There will be a lot of rules and regulation changes before this can become reality. Both technical, legal and safety rules will have to be in place specifically for such vessel to operate, but there will not be anybody on board who need to spend the best part of their time to fill in forms and file reports to satisfy ISM, or any other code or conventions.

All data about the voyage and condition of machinery etc. will be recorded and transmitted to shore based personnel automatically as is the case in the aviation industry, or soon will be hopefully. (Refr. the MH 370 mystery and the ongoing discussion on how to avoid such a loss in the future)

Nobody is proposing that existing ships will be able to just buy a box of tricks and become autonomous. That may be possible for the swarm boats of the US Navy, but is NOT what is planned, even for ferries on short routes, or short sea shipping.

Today’s planes can take off, fly thousands of miles and land themselves using automatic means, but they are not autonomous. The laws and regulations still require pilot(s) to be on board, even though it would have been possible to take control by ground staff in case of the system failing.

Here in Singapore the newer MRT lines (City metro) are driver less, but there are still signalling system and facilities to operate from on board panels, or remotely from the Control Centre. The frequency at peak hours is 2 min. between trains and these trains carry several million passengers every day, without any major accidents or incidents, so far. (Yes I know, not the same as running ships, but just saying)

Many knowledgable people believe that unmanned ships are likely to replace mariners at some point. The question is who will capture the increase in income from increases in productivity. What will happen to mariners?

The capitalist system only recognizes capital investments, it does not recognize the non-capital investments made by workers such as choice of profession, skills aquired over time, credentials, training and other less concrete investments such as choices as to where to live, to raise children and so forth. Those investments can only be protected via the political system.

An example of this is disscussed in the book “The Box”. It discuses the role of unions when containerized shipping made many longshoreman surplus and greatly increased the productivity of thoses remaining. In some cases longshoremen unions were able to obtain good severance pay for those laid off and increases in pay for those remaining.

I see a Logan’s Run future if this shit keeps up. People keep breeding, but jobs become more redundant every day.

I don’t see it happening. There are always going to be private boaters, fishing vessels, logs, etc that someone needs to be there to see and avoid. Also, heavy wether needs someone onboard to maneuver the vessel appropriately.

Besides, who is going to do the maintenance and upkeep on all the equipment? The manning is already at the absolute minimum it can be and have any hope of keeping up with the maintenance required.

What about a bogus alarm the chief can verify is bogus, rather than shut the entire plant down over a bad sensor mid Atlantic? Too complicated an operation to automate entirely I say.

My biggest concern is what about other vessels in distress. It would be pretty sad if someone in a life raft was surrounded by automated ship’s and there was no way to actually pick them up. Just like airplanes, I think there will always be a need to have someone looking out the window and looking at the dials just in case.

I keep asking myself, what’s going to happen when everything is automated and people are not needed for most labor? Will we overcome our current system of trading labor for goods and services, and move to a more enlightened state, or devolve into dystopia and chaos?

[QUOTE=z-drive;181071]What about a bogus alarm the chief can verify is bogus, rather than shut the entire plant down over a bad sensor mid Atlantic? Too complicated an operation to automate entirely I say.[/QUOTE]

No alarm will go off in the C/Eng. cabin since there will not be any C/Eng. to get annoyed, or any cabins for that matter.

Any system alarm will be dealt with by shore based personnel, who will be able to check the status of the machinery, system or individual equipment to verify if it is a faulty sensor, or a serious problem. In the last case there will be 100% redundancy, just like on a DP3 vessel today.

If I haven’t said it before I will repeat it here: We are NOT talking about taking an existing vessel, with yesteryear’s technology and machinery and making it autonomous. We are talking about vessels designed, built, equipped and programmed to operate autonomously, but with someone sitting in a control centre somewhere who can, if necessary, take control remotely.
That centre may be manned by qualified engineers and mariners working normal shifts and go home at the end of theirs shift.

A lot of ships are operated by Ship Management companies today. Why cannot that be expanded to operating Vessel Control Centers on behalf of many different Owners?

All major ports and coastal states operate VTS centers to control vessel traffic in their area. These centers are already watching and directing traffic in their area. They can be authorized to take control of autonomous ships remotely, if needed.

Pilotage is usually compulsory for entry and departure. Envisage the Pilot taking “charge” of an autonomous vessel while sitting in his office, watching the vessel maneuvering itself, but able to take over by remote control in case of any glitch.

As pointed out by others here, on OSVs DPS is now used by many young Masters to dock their vessel. Using fan beam or similar laser devices, that can easily be done automatically. (Somebody have to position the reflectors on the quayside the ship is to moor)
Mooring can be done by pneumatic or magnetic devices on the quayside.
All the necessary technology already exists and is in use, only not autonomously yet.

While sailing in open waters nobody is looking up from their numerous screen in the wheelhouse or ECR anyway. Why can they not sit ashore and look at screens showing the same thing?

[QUOTE=LI_Domer;181072]My biggest concern is what about other vessels in distress. It would be pretty sad if someone in a life raft was surrounded by automated ship’s and there was no way to actually pick them up. Just like airplanes, I think there will always be a need to have someone looking out the window and looking at the dials just in case.[/QUOTE]

When all ships are autonomous there will not be a need to pick up people in distress. Until then there will still be SAR vessels and helicopters to do so. There will still be manned vessels around for the foreseeable future however.