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Autonomous shipping advances in Denmark and the UK

Autonomous shipping advances in Denmark and the UK
Autonomous shipping has been much in the news these past two weeks after a flurry of separate developments in Denmark and the UK. 

First up, the Danish Maritime Authority (DMA) organised a one-day conference on the subject in Copenhagen last week, at which some the conclusions of a new report due out next month were unveiled. These included proposals on how the DMA should introduce new regulations to promote digitalisation within the shipping industry, thereby establishing itself as a thought leader in the field.  

To coincide with the conference, Rolls-Royce and Svitzer had arranged several demonstrations in Copenhagen harbour, for customers and the press, of what they term ‘the world’s first remotely operated commercial vessel’.

The demonstrations consisted of berthing/unberthing and harbour navigational manoeuvres by a specially modified 28 m tug equipped with DP propulsion, entirely controlled by a master seated in Svitzer’s Remote Operations Centre located in an office building alongside. The Svitzer Hermod tug had been modified by Rolls-Royce and retrofitted with some 7 km of extra cabling to connect all the necessary communications links and sensors, company officials informed, including night vision and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) laser technology, as well as radar and AIS, for situational awareness.  The vessel is classed by Lloyd’s Register and was being operated according to LR’s ShipRight procedure for the ‘Cyber Enabled Ship’.

Meanwhile, over in London the UK Maritime Autonomous Systems (MAS) Working Group launched a new Industry Code of Practice for autonomous vessels. Providing practical guidance for the “design, construction and safe operation of autonomous and semi-autonomous vessels less than 24 m in length”, the Code aims to put down a marker on “initial standards and best practice for all those involved with the development and operation of autonomous ships”.

And the UK Shipping Register simultaneously announced that it had signed its first ever unmanned, semi-autonomous vessel to the flag, ASV’s C-Worker 7 – a multi-role Autonomous Work Boat suitable for subsea positioning, surveying and environmental monitoring.

“By supporting emerging technologies such as autonomous systems, we are helping to keep the UK at the forefront of the global maritime industry,” commented UKSR director Doug Barrow.

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