Seafarers still have a role to play - MSC100


Autonomous and remote-controlled ships are being trialled but seafarers remain indispensable to safe shipping. This was the key message from a special session of IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) held on 3rd December.

“Are seafarers indispensable?”  -  was the question posed by Branko Berlan, ITF accredited representative to IMO. His message was that seafarers are still key to safe and secure ship operations.

The accident/incident rate for international merchant ships is less than 5% of all ships per year, he pointed out.

Seafarers are prepared for new technologies and automation. “It is happening: it is not revolution, it will not come tomorrow or next week; it is evolution,” he said, adding that seafarers are ready to accept technologies, if they are proved to be safer than what we have now. 

In a debate, delegates raised questions about search and rescue operations, which might involve autonomous or remote controlled ships and how collision regulations would be complied with. Most believed that remote controlled or autonomous vessels would initially operate close to shore.

The MSC is carrying out a regulatory scoping exercise looking at how the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) may be introduced in IMO instruments.

Although not affecting the tanker segment, Kevin Daffey, Director Ship Intelligence and Engineering & Technology, Commercial Marine, Rolls-Royce, showed a video of the trial – earlier the same day – of a fully autonomous ferry on a voyage between Parainen and Nauvo, Finland, while Timo Koponen, Vice President, Processing Solutions, Wärtsilä Marine Business, showcased the remote control operation of an offshore vessel which took place in August, 2017.

More recently, in 2018, the Norwegian hybrid powered car ferry ‘Folgefonn’ underwent successful auto-docking/undocking/dock-to-dock tests. Automation, intelligent routing, voyage optimisation and just-in-time operation had the potential to provide significant fuel savings and contribute to improved environmental performance, Koponen said.




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