APRIL 12, 2016 — Two Finnish companies have become the first commercial operators to join the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA) project, led by Rolls-Royce.
They are ferry operator Finferries and dry bulk cargo carrier ESL Shipping Oy. The announcement came at a conference presenting the findings of the initiative's first year of research held at Helsinki's Finlandia Hall last week.
The AAWA project brings together universities, ship designers, equipment manufacturers and classification societies to explore the economic, social, legal, regulatory and technological factors that must be addressed to make autonomous ships a reality.
Finferries will assist the project by carrying out a series of tests of sensor arrays in a range of operating and climatic conditions on board the 65 m double ended ferry Stella, which operates between Korpo and Houtskär.
Mats Rosin, Finferries, Managing Director, said: "Finferries is pleased to be able to contribute to the development of a safer shipping industry by finding the optimum, cost effective, combination of visual and thermal cameras, radar and LIDAR to enhance mariners' situational awareness, helping them navigate safely and avoid collisions."
ESL Shipping Ltd will help the project explore the implications of remote and autonomous ships for the short sea cargo sector.Mikki Koskinen, ESL Shipping Oy, Managing Director, said: "We have seen increasing interest in, and acceptance of, remote and autonomous technologies worldwide across the transport and logistics industries. While not all ships will be remotely operated or autonomous, these developments have the potential to transform mariners' jobs for the better. The work will not disappear but it will be different and more attractive to younger generations. By participating in the AAWA project we will get an early insight into the impact of such transformation on our industry, our business and the lives of the people who work in it."
The project is also exploring how to combine existing communication technologies in an optimum way for autonomous ship control. It has created a simulated autonomous ship control system which will be connected to a satellite communications link as well as land based systems and will allow the behaviour of the complete communication system to be explored.
To secure regulatory approval, the support of shipowners, operators and seafarers, as well as wider public acceptance, the operation of remote and autonomous ships will obviously need to be at least as safe as existing vessels and the AAWA project is identifying and exploring these hazards and developing approaches to tackle them.
Cybersecurity will also be critical to the safe and successful operation of remote and autonomous vessels. The project is identifying and adapting current best practice from a range of industries for application in the marine environment.