Autonomous vessels to put UK at the forefront of maritime tech revolution


Britain’s maritime industry is on the verge of a technological revolution that could make shipping faster, safer and more environmentally friendly, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said.

The Transport Secretary, who will be joining representatives from across the maritime industry at the Smart Shipping Event in London, outlines his vision for the UK to be at the forefront of a maritime technology revolution, which is expected to result in the growing use of autonomous vessels.

Shipping Minister Nusrat Ghani will also host the event in London.

Grayling’s comments come after the addition of the first semi-autonomous vessel to the UK Ship Register at the end of 2017, marking a potential revolution in the maritime industry.

The potential advances in the maritime industry are in line with the ambition set out in the government’s Industrial Strategy to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future.

Technological developments, including autonomous vessels, could deliver huge benefits to the maritime industry.

Other examples include augmented reality, which could be used to train new seafaring cadets and familiarise them with vessels before even leaving the shore, improving safety; and artificial intelligence, which could plot more efficient routes, avoid severe weather, highlight disruption at ports and diagnose mechanical problems.

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He also cited other examples such as a rise in the number of electric and hybrid vessels, cutting down on the level of carbon emissions in the industry, and the development of low or zero emission fuels; and magnetic berthing, making the mooring process safer and more efficient.

Maritime UK published an industry-led code of practice for autonomous vessels in November 2017, the same month in which the C-Worker 7 became the first semi-autonomous vessel to join the UK Ship Register.

Similar to incidents on the road, most casualties at sea are estimated to be caused by human error. Use of new technology that can help seafarers and the emergence of autonomous shipping can improve safety at sea.

Autonomous shipping can bring about a change in how freight is transported around the country, with coastal shipping replacing heavy goods vehicles, taking them off the roads and reducing congestion.

In addition, radical redesigns of vessels which technology could allow and the use of more hybrid and electric vessels could significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Plans for the Maritime 2050 project were announced earlier in February 2018.