Russia starts creating commercial fleet of autonomous vessels

Russian technology company Kronshtadt Technologies has entered into agreements to equip a series of domestic cargo and passenger ships with autonomous navigation systems.


Earlier this week, Kronshtadt signed memoranda of agreement with compatriot shipping companies Morspetsservice and SeaEnergy, part of MT Group.

With this move, Morspetsservice and SeaEnergy have become the first companies in Russia to announce the creation of a commercial fleet of autonomous vessels.

Specifically, the agreements define projects and names of the first twenty vessels, the schedule of their equipment, the location of onshore monitoring and control centers for autonomous vessels.

Image Courtesy: KT

As informed, Morspetsservice decided to equip a series of ten Sakhalin cargo-passenger vessels and Sakhalinets multipurpose high-speed catamarans to provide sea freight and passenger traffic in the Far East, including the Sakhalin region. Under the terms of the signed agreement, the lead ships of the series, MSS Pioneer and MSS Avangard, are planned to be equipped with autonomous systems by 30 August 2021.

What is more, SeaEnergy intends to equip a series of ten U-Type multipurpose general cargo vessels with autonomous navigation systems. The 9,300-tonne ships began operating this year in the waters of the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Mediterranean Sea. The lead vessel in the series, Kamilla, is scheduled to be equipped with the advanced system by 31 December 2021.

Image Courtesy: KT

The unmanned navigation systems will need to be approved by classification society RINA.

The rise of maritime autonomous surface ships in Russia

The aforementioned cooperation became possible thanks to the introduction of a regulatory framework in Russia necessary for the operation of maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) and the development of a full range of technical means for autonomous navigation.

On December 5, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin approved a decree on the introduction of a national-wide experiment in MASS operations. It allows every shipping company to trial MASS operations. The document is based on the IMO Interim Guidelines for MASS trials.

At the same time, the sea trials of technical solutions in real operation should be completed onboard several vessels of SCF, Rosmorport and Pola Group, as reported by the project lead, head of Russian Industry Association MARINET, Alexander Pinskiy.

“The developed solutions are based on the Comprehensive Functional Equivalence principle, which supposes strict fulfillment of the functions prescribed today for the crew on board by the current safety regulation in the autonomous mode.”

“In general, we automated step by step almost every navigation function defined by STCW Code and Russian regulation in environment analysis, ship maneuvering, ship and technical systems control, etc. On one hand, it gave us a clear scope of requirements for the technical solutions. On another hand, it allows operating MASS within the framework of the current international regulation as is, without requiring to change it immediately, and to coexist with traditional ships,” Pinskiy said.

Previously, Alexander Pinskiy announced plans to equip at least 100 autonomous vessels under the Russian flag in the next three years.