LR: Maritime decarbonization will require autonomous systems for viability in the future

The complex decarbonized systems of the future will require autonomous management systems for viable exploitation, speakers at the Automation Summit, part of Singapore Maritime Week, revealed.

Illustration; Credit: Samsung Heavy Industries

The insights were shared at the event led by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and Lloyd’s Register (LR).

Potential efficiency gains in bunkering of alternative fuels through autonomous berthing and transfer systems were highlighted by the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) as an example of how autonomous systems will contribute to net-zero emissions and autonomous ship technology companies.

As autonomous technology moves beyond the demonstration stage and undertakes the transition to operationalization, the participants flagged concerns about “systems-level maturity lagging due to a lack of regulations and requirements guiding its progression”.

They noted that addressing this challenge calls for a robust verification and validation process, underpinned by science and quantification, to demonstrate to regulators the value of traceable completeness of evidenced safety and consistency of performance.

During the discussions, it was highlighted that Avikus autonomous navigation, developed by HD Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (HD KSOE) and Avikus, indicated that a 15% fuel reduction during transit is achievable using autonomous navigation.

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In the end, the participants agreed that the realization of safety and environmental benefits from autonomy will come when the commercial case is proven.

The summit followed an agreement in 2023 between UK and Singapore research agencies to collaborate on research into Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) and remotely operated vessels.

The agreement further focuses on the development of pro-innovation standards and test methodologies to enable the deployment of MASS.

Discussions and collaboration during the summit stem from the UK-based Maritime Autonomy Assurance Testbed (MAAT) partnership led by NPL and Lloyd’s Register.

This has focused on building a test and certification program to provide a pathway to safe adoption of these technologies.

The summit also identified priority areas of research on this topic, including the development of common taxonomies, test standards and methods for validating virtual test environments, and the coalitions of organizations and countries required to deliver these.

“Autonomy presents unique opportunities and challenges at the same time.  As evidenced throughout the Summit, the Maritime Autonomy space is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate and deliver international agreement on science led standards for testing and assurance, which in turn will ensure the benefits of this emerging technology can be fully realised,” Andre Burgess, Assured Autonomy Lead for the Partnerships Group at NPL, said.

“The summit identified the important next steps so that autonomy can be integrated into maritime operations and the environmental and safety advantages realised. Collaboration across nations, regulators and industry stakeholders, which was evident at the summit, provides the opportunity to deliver expedited and rounded autonomy to the sector and demonstrate the commonalities of our global aspirations,” Tony Boylen, Maritime Innovation Leader at Lloyd’s Register, stated.

To remind, the UK recently signed an agreement with Norway, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands to facilitate better cooperation on the international operation of autonomous vessels. The agreement aims to simplify the operation of autonomous ships in the North Sea and ensure that they can operate safely within the individual countries’ national requirements and frameworks.

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Furthermore, the UK will collaborate with Japanese stakeholders to accelerate the development of an assurance framework for maritime autonomy and instigate the development of appropriate regional and international regulations.

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