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Future of UK’s marine robotics sector to be debated at LISW

Photo: SMI Tom Chant CEO Society of Maritime Industries[69].jpg
The UK’s voice of maritime engineering and marine science, the Society of Maritime Industries (SMI), is staging an event aiming to galvanise the UK’s world leading marine robotics sector during London International Shipping Week.

The event on September 14 titled ‘Creating a Leading Edge – Accelerating Autonomy to Unlock UK Opportunity’ will bring together small businesses driving the sector with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.

The event will present the outcomes of two workshops SMI has held with SMEs and members outlining how designers, builders and operators of marine robotics can work safely together. 

SMI CEO Tom Chant said for the UK to maintain its position as a prime mover in marine autonomous system (MAS) it needs a clear pathway for growth and streamlining regulation.

“Britain risks losing our competitive edge if our entrepreneurs cannot innovate at speed,” he said. “Red tape is an issue. But on a positive note both Government and industry are coming together to work out solutions in what is a rapidly advancing sector. The key is for regulation to keep pace with innovation and new technology without compromising safety.”

Peter Collinson, SMI member and founder of MAS and decarbonisation consultancy Dendrityca says the UK MAS sector is losing the momentum of the late 2010s. He points to a combination of legislation and a risk averse industry hitting the break on innovation.

“Legislation around MAS is problematic,” he said. “It’s too slow and therefore for end users like engineering contractors, assessing seabed infrastructure, it presents regulatory risk. Why would you invest in new MAS technology if it may not pass approvals on a tight deadline? You cannot afford to make a mistake and safety always comes first. So understandably contractors will favour technology that is proven, such as remotely operated vehicles (ROV) connected to a manned ship.Contractors have invested heavily in this type of equipment and there is a vested interest in continuing using it. Red tape around MAS gives an excuse not to evolve.”

Collinson pointed to the vastly reduced carbon emissions, fuel use and operating costs of MAS equipment.

“Marine robotics can cut emissions by as much as 99%,” he said. “If you consider some MAS equipment uses just 60 litres of diesel a day and can replace a traditional crewed vessel with ROV burning through 12-15 tonnes of fuel per day. This is the MAS opportunity we want to seize.”

TAGS: Europe