British ports create new network to prepare for autonomous ships

The British Ports Association (BPA) has launched a new initiative looking at the implications of autonomous shipping for UK ports, including a call for evidence from interested parties.

Richard Ballantyne, BPA

Maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) involve the automation of vessel and onboard processes which could alter how ports and ships interface with each other. 

The BPA, which represents the majority of UK port activity including 85 per cent of the shipping movements in and out of the country, is keen to explore what the future developments of shipping will mean for the sector.

As part of the initiative, the BPA is creating a new Autonomous Shipping in Ports Network and is opening a call for evidence from the wider maritime community on what ports should consider to prepare for receiving autonomous ships in the future.

As explained, this will feed into the BPA’s own MASS analysis as well as its discussion with industry partners through bodies such as the industry umbrella group Maritime UK. 

“The prospect of seeing autonomous ships in UK ports is definitely on the horizon but there will be much to do to prepare ourselves. This includes the consideration for port and marine operations, regulatory frameworks, infrastructure and receptions facilities, land to vessel communications and vessel safety,” Richard Ballantyne, the Chief Executive of the British Ports Association, commented.

Richard Ballantyne; Photo: BPA

“Although we are at the early stages, a lot of work is taking place across the maritime community. Many UK ports are now starting to ask what they should be considering as they develop their ports and recruit the next generation.

“This will be an ongoing initiative for the BPA but initially we are inviting evidence from a cross section of maritime sector organisations. This will be in relation to issues that they see specific in to ports and harbours moving forward into autonomous maritime operations. It will also help us to support and participate in various government initiatives in the UK such as Maritime 2050, the work of the Maritime Skills Commission and other innovation, sustainability and infrastructure projects,” he added.

Specifically, the BPA’s new network will be open to all its port members but it will also be drawing on external expertise from specialists working in the marine and MASS sectors.

BPA represents the interests of over 100 port members, covering more than 400 ports, terminal operators and port facilities.