Groke Technologies vice president customer solutions and concepts Iiro Lindborg predicts a periodically unmanned bridge approach by 2030
In 2010 there were a lot of predictions about what would happen in 2020. Most of them did not come to pass and we have not seen the radical disruption in the industry touted by some of the futurists in the industry.
There are many reasons for the maritime industry not changing at the same pace as other industries: one being complexity and the vast number of parties involved; old habits are not easy to change; and finally the need for change has not been supported by the business. Shipping is still the cheapest and the most efficient way to transport goods globally.
Nevertheless, one thing has changed. That is the amount of data collected which is still not utilised to its potential. The reality for many companies is that the data lies somewhere and only a small fraction of collected data is used.
I believe data utilisation will be one of the biggest changes going forward towards 2030, opening new possibilities that will also create business value to all parties involved in maritime logistics. One good example of such utilisation is solutions developed by Finnish prediction and awareness solution builder Rewake.
They have built an operation awareness system that first quantifies the data quality, then utilises the existing data in different ways. Collected data will provide the owner profiling analytics on how equipment is used, if it is used to its full potential or if there is the potential to increase cost efficiency. Data can be used to predict different outcomes in situations where vessel arrival or departure times change, or for resource optimisation of crew in case of sick leave etc. All this is processed in a cloud-based solution and visualised in real-time through different user-friendly views with the processed data is available 24/7 where needed.
I believe availability of data will also change the way vessels are navigated in future. When providing the above-mentioned data to sailing vessels, they will have instant access to updated arrival times and the factors affecting it. This also works the other way around; vessels can update shore teams with real-time situations and possible changes.
We are already seeing situation awareness solutions commercially available that monitor the surroundings of vessels and inform the crew of possible risks around the vessel. Linking these solutions with additional data sources and available information, the overall picture is much clearer for all parties involved and this could be a big enabler for periodically unmanned bridge solutions, the first true step towards autonomous maritime.
In the periodically unmanned bridge approach, crew can have more resting time during long ocean crossings. The watchkeeping duties onboard would be carried out by computer and personnel at a shore centre will support and monitor multiple vessels, ready to adjust individual vessel navigation plans if needed.
Shore crew will have all the same information supporting decision making as onboard crew along with additional outcome predictions and instant risk-based what-if scenarios. Using this approach and getting used to this kind of computer-human interaction and decision making will also lower the barrier for introducing more autonomous operations in future.
One major change coming with the periodically unmanned solutions, will be introducing shore control and monitoring centres. Today the major shipping lines have their own centres, but my prediction is that in future we will see shore control and monitoring services provided as a service for owners. This would mean lower introduction costs for the technology and for the owners the business model might be a pay-as-you-use type of solution.
Whether we will see partial autonomy as a service in 2030 or if it will take longer remains to be seen, but we will see technologies introduced that will support both existing crew and future autonomy through utilisation of data.