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Live From Nor-Shipping 2013
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Are robots the future of offshore?

Discussing the future of the offshore sector at NorShipping's Agenda Offshore conference in Oslo this morning, a common theme was that of increasing automation and remote operation of vessels.

Professor David Lane from Heriot-Watt University said, "there are autonomous vehicles being used today in the oilfield for inspection and soon they'll be used for repair and maintenance."

"Business plans of companies sitting in this room within five years will have autonomous platforms and vehicles that are doing manipulation in the ocean."

The consensus of the panel was that the technology was already available for remote operation of vessels and increased automation, even on the drilling side.

"We did remote drilling in '94… the technology is there, the challenge is the people and the mindset of the people," explained Hege Kverneland, cto and corporate vice president at National Oilwell Varco.

"People need to be ready to adopt it, and rather than taking it in one big step, it comes as a series of baby steps and I believe we're on the way," added Lane.

When asked If automation increases or mitigates risk, Lane's stance was clear, "I think it takes away risk, that's part of the point of doing it."

"The dynamics of the vessel market will change as we have more automation on the sea bed," he continued. "It'll make individual vessels more productive…but  we will always need ships as the whole ocean space develops, and what's interesting to see is - how will that be tensioned by the need for less ships as we have more automation?"

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