US-based classification society American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has joined the Unmanned Cargo Ship Development Alliance, a group of class organisations, shipyards, equipment manufacturers and designers that aims to collaboratively advance and promote autonomous shipping operations.

The alliance seeks to support unmanned cargo shipping technologies by integrating features such as independent decision-making, autonomous navigation, environmental perception and remote control.

The alliance is chaired by HNA Technology Group and aims to deliver an unmanned cargo ship by October 2021.

HNA Technology Group vice-chairman Li Weijian said: “Through this collaborative effort, we will apply the latest technologies to develop a new autonomous ship concept.

“The newly formed alliance is advancing new innovations in ship design and operations, and also working to promote the safe adoption of these assets in the market.” 

The Unmanned Cargo Ship Development Alliance was launched last month and currently has nine members, including ABS, China Classification Society (CCS), China Ship Research & Development Institute, and Shanghai Marine Diesel Engine Research Institute.

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Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group), Marine Design Research Institute of China (MARIC), Rolls-Royce, and Wartsila are also involved in the collaborative project.

"The newly formed alliance is advancing new innovations in ship design and operations, and also working to promote the safe adoption of these assets in the market."

ABS Greater China Division president Eric Kleess said: “Increased digitisation, advanced technologies and new levels of connectivity are changing the way the maritime industry operates.

“In the coming years, we will see significant changes in the way ships are designed and built, with a strong drive to develop autonomous vessels, especially in China.  

“As a key member of this alliance, ABS is aligned closely with industry to support safer and more sustainable maritime operations.”

ABS introduced an improved Guide for Certification of Container Securing Systems (Lashing Guide) for containerships in February, as well as a new companion software package known as ABS C-LASH.

Image: Concept of autonomous shipping. Photo: courtesy of archy13 / Shutterstock / ABS.