Autonomous vessels may come sooner than we think
Shortly after the International Maritime Organisation Safety Committee’s recent finalising of the next steps for regulating Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship (MASS), the United Kingdom got to work in setting up an MASS training centre.
Preparing for robotic vessels
The industry recognises autonomous ships are the future, but no projected timeline was given. Yet, a few entities namely the Royal Navy (RN), SeaBot XR and the UK’s National Oceanography Centre, have signed an agreement to set up a training centre for grooming a new breed of seafarers. The training facility is said to be based in Southampton, and will address the requirements for robotics training in Europe. SeaBot XR will formulate a competence-based curriculum tailored for autonomous vessels – both surface and sub-surface.
Incidentally, the agreement noted there will be a combined training and testing site. Parties can test their own own autonomous and remotely-controlled vessels, as well as grant access to an operations centre and various surface and sub-surface vessels. Its purpose is to experiment with different weather and tidal conditions, vessel features and operational practicalities.
Commodore Andrew Cree, Deputy Director for Future Training from the Royal Navy said: “This new centre of excellence is a case in point and marks a pivotal change in maritime. RN constantly seeks ways to optimise technology to support operations and equip our people with the skills to operate new technologies – with surface and sub-surface autonomous vessels being a priority. Addressing the future skills requirements in this field is a game-changer and is essential for success.”
Gordon Meadow, Founder and CEO of SeaBot XR said: “Currently available training for seafarers has served the industry well for decades, but many methods and much of the curriculum cannot be applied to autonomous and remote vessel operations. Digitalisation is the next frontier in shipping and requires a fresh approach to workforce training. It is vital that training is developed alongside with technology so that it serves humans to their advantage.” These strong statements reek more than enthusiasm. It might be a clear indication of the timeline when autonomous vessels will officially operate at sea.
Marine Online Media Team
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