Rolls-Royce has revealed its vision of remote and autonomous shipping through the findings of its advanced autonomous waterborne applications initiative (AAWA) at a conference at Helsinki’s Finlandia Hall.

The project is said to facilitate a constant real-time monitoring of vessels across the world to allow a better connection of the ships with the logistics or supply chains, subsequently paving the way for cost-savings, providing a boost to the revenue generation.

The implementation of the project is expected to give rise to new shipping services, such as online cargo service marketplaces, more efficient pooling and leasing of assets, and new alliances.

“Remote and autonomous ships have the potential to redefine the maritime industry.”

The new services will support the existing organisations in the market, as well as facilitate the emergence of new companies.

Turku School of Economics Centre for Collaborative Research development manager Jouni Saarni said: "Remote and autonomous ships have the potential to redefine the maritime industry and the roles of the players in it with implications for shipping companies, shipbuilders and maritime systems providers, as well as technology companies from other sectors, especially automotive."

Rolls Royce has also announced the first commercial maritime operator of this project; ferry operator Finferries, and dry bulk cargo carriers ESL Shipping.

Finferries will support the project by providing Stella, a 65m double-ended ferry, which will be utilised to conduct tests of the sensor arrays in a range of operating and climatic conditions.

ESL Shipping will support the project to explore the implications of remote and autonomous ships for the short sea cargo sector.

Under the project, a simulated autonomous ship control system has been created, which will be integrated to a satellite communications link as well as land based systems to allow an optimal utilisation of the existing communication technologies for autonomous ship control.

It is also exploring the best practices in maritime security to ensure cyber security for a safe and secured operation of remote and autonomous vessels.

Aalto University senior research scientist Risto Jalonen said: "The marine industry has some experience of systematic and comprehensive risk assessments.

"However, when new or emerging technology is involved a wider and deeper understanding of a new and changed risk portfolio, with a variety of known and unknown hazards, is needed. The AAWA project is identifying and exploring these hazards and developing approaches to tackle them."

The results of the studies will be used to issue recommendations to regulators and classification societies to promote the development of standards for remote and unmanned vessel operation.

Subject to a regulatory approval, the AAWA project has been supported by a Finnish funding agency for technology and innovation of Tekes.

Image: AAWA’s ship automation centre. Photo: courtesy of Rolls-Royce plc/ Flickr.