Initiative to develop autonomous navigation system

Remote Operating Centre. Credit: Rolls Royce Flickr

During Singapore Maritime Week, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was announced between classification society Lloyd’s Register (LR), information technology provider ST Engineering Electronics (STEE), and Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co. (Mitsui) to create a navigation system for autonomous vessels to be controlled from shore.

Andy Mckeran, LR commercial director marine and offshore commented, “Increasing interest in maritime autonomy and remote access and control technologies is a specific example of larger technological changes we are currently seeing in the maritime industry.”

The project is part of the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore’s (MPA) initiative to develop the world’s largest ocean-going autonomous vessel programme.

The project is expected to model ship dynamics and hardware as well as the dynamic responses of the vessel, as the information is transmitted back to a shore control station for analysis and the development of navigation intelligence.

As part of the MPA’s autonomous vessel programme, technology will be installed upon and steer a commercial vessel at sea autonomously. STEE will develop the navigation modules on the 8000 teu car carrier, owned by MV Themis and operated by Mitsui.

Mitsui will also provide, along with the vessel, shipping operations advise and route planning. LR, on the other hand, will provide the safety cases for intervention, monitoring and the eventual certification of the autonomous navigation system.

The vessel is expected to sail a global test route which includes locations such as the Suez Canal, Panama Canal, Strait of Malacca and Singapore. The route is expected to provide vast amounts of data and test scenarios to serve as a benchmark for future autonomous shipping programmes.

With the growing interest and development of autonomous vessels, and now navigation systems, the impact on port operations will be undeniable. With the MPA fully endorsing the autonomy of vessels, it will be interesting to see the reactions of other ports and if they are as accepting of change as Singapore.

This question how prepared ports are for automated vessels will be further explored in the DPC June edition.