Momentum is continuing to grow for the adoption of autonomous technologies to enhance the safety and operations of ships. In the latest step to accelerate the deployment of these technologies into commercial shipping, Damen Shipyard and Sea Machines Robotics entered into a strategic alliance to further investigate the adoption of autonomous technologies starting with collision avoidance functionality. They plan to initially incorporate the technology into a broad range of ships, including workboats, patrol vessels, tugboats, crew transfer vessels, and ferries built by Damen.

Over the last four years, the Damen Shipyards Group notes that it has been investing in autonomous shipping technologies, participating in several joint industry projects to research the readiness level of the technologies. The new alliance aims at speeding up the adoption of several navigation technologies to increase autonomy levels on Damen-built vessels.

“We don’t so much see autonomous ships as unmanned ‘ghost’ vessels, plowing the oceans in silence,” said Toine Cleophas, research manager at Damen. “We foresee ships where a number of tasks are automated, allowing the crew to have a more focused approach to those tasks that still require the human element, such as the various activities that take place when the vessel arrives in the port. In some situations, a fully autonomous ship may be required, in other cases only parts of the activities will be automated to support the onboard crew, thereby increasing safety and efficiency.”

Damen will first adopt Sea Machines’ SM300 autonomous-command and remote-helm control technology in its test environment. According to Damen, this will make it possible to predict the integration complexity and system performance on any kind of vessel. By adopting this solution in software models, a digital twin of the ship becomes reality and will display the benefits of autonomous technology even before it is installed onboard.


Source: maritime-executive


Each of the ship manager’s 12 vessels will deploy the state-of-the-art system, enabling ZSM to effectively benchmark voyage execution, support the safety of the fleet and reduce crew workload. The order with Wärtsilä Voyage was placed in December 2020.

FOS integrates Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) with voyage planning functions as well as enabling a ship-to-shore link from the system. With the capability of harnessing data from other ship systems and external sources and deploying advanced analytics and machine learning to deliver insights, FOS is a powerful tool with multiple uses. For ZSM, supporting navigational safety was one of the priorities given its importance to tanker owners and charterers.

The delivery includes the FOS navigation package, spanning voyage planning and execution modules, ECDIS operational leases and the Wärtsilä BridgeMate tablet application that enables back-up charts, navigation decision support and the berthing assistance on wings to be accessed from anywhere on the vessel.

Simplified voyage planning and accurately monitored voyage execution – allowing for benchmarking, assessment and continuous improvement – are fundamental to tanker owners and charterers given the high potential cost of safety concerns. One immediate benefit of FOS is a dramatic reduction in the amount of time needed to plan routes, leaving crew with more time to focus on other work critical to securing safe passage. Real-time monitoring, advanced weather routing and instant updates of charts are among the further advantages of the connected solution.

“Digital innovation is a key element for ZSM to ensure that our managed vessels are executing voyages as safely and as efficiently as possible. Wärtsilä’s solution gives us that increased transparency, connecting key stakeholders onboard and ashore in real-time, as well as making navigation and planning easier for the crew”, said Matthias Ritters, managing director, Zeaborn Ship Management Tankers.

“This important contract with a progressive ship manager highlights the value that FOS can bring to a variety of maritime operators in diverse areas. Whether looking to make improvements on a single vessel or at a fleet level, to drive safety or improve efficiency, FOS can support you. We are delighted to begin this cooperation with ZSM”, said Alex van Knotsenborg, global sales director, Wärtsilä Voyage.


Source: thedigitalship


It comes as no surprise that U.S. importers have been experiencing a tremendous increase in cost of ocean freight. Ocean freight rates have been steadily increasing over the past several months. And, the reality is, there is no end in sight to these skyrocketing costs.


Global pandemics have global consequences, and the consequences created by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) global pandemic certainly bears that out. In the first quarter of 2020, China factories were forced to close down in an attempt to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. When those factories finally re-opened in the early part of the second quarter of 2020, order backlogs were their first priority.

Next came the need to fill new orders, which were coming in it at record levels. This dynamic created the first part of the “Perfect Storm.” With the worldwide lockdowns in 2020 as a result of COVID-19, a new dynamic was created.

People were forced to work from their homes and many still are and will be for quite some time. This phenomenon created a significant increase in the utilization of online shopping networks, to order merchandise they would normally pick up at a retail store. That was coupled with the fear of shortages of everyday necessities, which then created even more havoc in U.S. consumers’ buying trends.

Demand outweighed supply and that trend is continuing.

Fast forward to where we are today, and we not only see continually increasing ocean shipping costs, but we are now also experiencing major delays in getting products from Southeast Asia to North America. The main reason behind these delays is the lack of space availability on ocean carrier’s vessels, which is exacerbated by a shortage of available ocean containers to meet the importers’ shipping demands. In addition, with limited workforces at several U.S. ports, many ships are anchored offshore on the West Coast waiting for births to be unloaded. Recent estimates claimed that over 60 ships were waiting for their turn to unload their cargo at several West Coast Ports.


Source: foodlogistics


Shipping will face many obstacles as it strives to reduce its emissions impact. The switch to cleaner fuels, essential for much of the global fleet, will bring added cost and complexity as well as the need for new skills. Digital systems will play a key role in enabling this transition.

In November 2020, IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting (MEPC 75) proposed its first short-term measures to reduce ships’ greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in line with IMO’s 2030 and 2050 GHG reduction targets. This year it will begin discussing longer-term solutions including how to encourage development and uptake of new fuel technologies.

Many fuels are vying for the chance to become the mainstay of any future fleet, including hydrogen, LNG, LPG, ammonia, methanol and biofuel. A broader range of propulsion technologies will also be considered, with fuel cells and batteries being widely touted as a possible replacement for ship engines on some vessel types and trades.

As with any big change, there will be challenges. The shipping industry has relied on conventional engines and, in most cases, a single fuel type for decades. New fuels will lead to increasingly complex systems and introduce new hazards. It is likely that greater automation and optimisation will be required to not only manage these systems and the new risks they might bring with them, but also to operate them efficiently to keep costs down.


Source: wartsila


The University of Oldenburg is taking part in an EU research project aimed at sustainable transportation of goods. The AVATAR project will investigate whether autonomous, zero-emission ships could be cost-effective on small inland waterways.

Many cities in the North Sea region are criss-crossed by canals which in the past were used for inland transport of goods and people in and around urban environments. Nowadays, however, this mode of transport is for the most part no longer economically viable, mainly due to high crewing costs. The AVATAR project (“Sustainable urban freight transport with autonomous zero-emission vessels”), in which the University of Oldenburg is also participating, will now investigate whether autonomous transport systems could be cost-effective on small inland waterways. Led by computer scientist Prof. Dr.-Ing. Axel Hahn, the Oldenburg team is developing a control centre to monitor the robot ship traffic.

The total budget for the project is approximately 1.9 million euros over the next three years, around half of which is being provided by the Interreg Europe North Sea Region programme. Seven partners from Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium are involved, with the Development Agency East-Flanders in Ghent (Belgium) as lead partner.

The project is investigating the economic potential of zero-emission urban freight vessels powered by renewable energies. The aim is to establish to what extent these vehicles could replace road transportation and thus help to reduce noise levels and exhaust emissions. The main focus In the Oldenburg sub-project is on safety concepts and communication with the robot ships.

Hahn’s team is working on so-called fallback solutions. “In critical situations, it must be possible to take over control of the vessels from a control centre,” Hahn explains. The researchers are investigating what data the control centre would require to be able to control a ship remotely. The system is to be housed in a container that can be set up at different locations for testing purposes. The “Maritime Connectivity Platform”, a communication system for maritime shipping which is currently under development, could be used for communication. It allows for the electronic exchange of data between vessels, ports, authorities and service providers.

The participants in AVATAR are mainly concerned with the “last mile” – the last leg of the journey in freight transport. In the future, robot ships could for example bring palletised goods from central transhipment points to inner city locations and carry waste away from them. Hamburg, Delft (the Netherlands), Ghent and Leuven (Belgium) are the pilot cities.


Source: idw-online


Big picture benefits
“Our e-Navigation mission has always been to simplify operational tasks, while enhancing efficiency, safety and business performance,” said Svanes. “This may be a new arena for NAVTOR, but its built on those same principles and utilizes our proven technology, infrastructure and expertise to deliver huge benefits for shipowners targeting improved ship management.

“Using our cyber-secure certified gateway, NavBox, and cloud computing resources we can enable remote teams to work as one – accessing data relating to, for example, vessel sensors, weather, passage planning, route optimization, engines and fuel consumption, in real-time. In this way, users have a simplified interface where everything is connected, enabling them to see the ‘big picture’ rather than working to gather and analyze separate data streams in isolation. This unlocks smarter shipping for everyone… and the benefits of that are almost unlimited.”

Performance optimization is a key NavFleet selling point, with the ability to benchmark, troubleshoot, refine and share best practices across fleets, while solving individual vessel issues.

For example, if a shoreside team knew what rpm should produce a speed of 10knots in good weather conditions, vessel engines could be set accordingly and ongoing speed monitored. If speed doesn’t meet expectations a hull performance issue could be identified, with bio-fouling producing frictional drag, hampering performance, and impacting on fuel consumption and efficiency. NavFleet would deliver this insight.

But, Svanes notes, that is really just the tip of the iceberg. The new awareness also enables easier compliance, alongside simplified reporting and administration, with the ability to automate key reports. Amongst these will be the mandated EU MRV/IMO DCS reports, which can be produced at the touch of a NavFleet button from later in 2021. A new approach to operational report handling will allow reports (e.g. noon reports) to be sent directly from vessels, but accessed from anywhere through the application.

In addition, NavFleet’s real-time monitoring capabilities will help office-based teams determine if vessels are falling short of KPIs or deviating from passage plans, facilitating swift remedial action. This ability makes it easier for owners to adhere to the covenants in charter party agreements, potentially avoiding performance claims and strengthening working relationships.

Smart shipping
“We’ve listened to our customers and the officers on the thousands of vessels we deliver services to and tailored a solution that helps them tackle some of their most pressing everyday challenges,” Svanes concludes. “It is powerful, flexible and will constantly evolve as we develop new functionality and refinements to meet the changing demands of this dynamic industry.

“We see this as a natural progression for NAVTOR and a further means of translating some of the principal benefits we’ve brought to e-Navigation into the context of overall fleet and business management. This is a new chapter for our company and, we believe, an essential application for enabling smarter, more sustainable and profitable shipping organizations.”

Since opening its doors in Egersund, Norway in 2011, NAVTOR now operates a global network of eight full-time offices and has more than 20 international distributors, supporting customers in more than 60 countries, with products and services onboard around 7,000 individual vessels.


Source: maritimeglobalnews


“This standard will help protect the environment in the port. Not only that, it will also help every organisation that is part of this process by raising the minimum standard of cleaning several notches higher and ensure that the end result is both a clean ship, and safe working practice,” says David Loosley, BIMCO secretary general.

The standard and the accompanying approval procedure is now available on the BIMCO and ICS websites.

The organisms growing on the ship increases its drag through the water and can reduce fuel efficiency of the ship by as much as 35%, leading to higher fuel bills and higher CO2 emissions. It is therefore important to remove the growths every couple of years.

A number of countries and regions have put biofouling management high on the agenda, with regional and national regulation on the drawing board or already in place. This includes the USA, Australia, the Baltic Sea region, New Zealand, Hawaii and California.

John Stawpert, Manager (Environment and Trade) at the International Chamber of Shipping added: “This new industry standard establishes a benchmark for safe and environmentally sound underwater hull cleaning, an issue that is of increasing concern to the international community. We hope that this first step by industry bodies will allow cleaning companies to demonstrate that their products protect the marine environment, and that shipowners can be confident that their ships are cleaned to a safe and effective level around the world. With these industry standards port authorities can also have confidence that underwater hull cleaning can be completed with minimal risk to the environment by independently approved cleaning companies working to proven high standards.”

According to the industry standard, at least 90% of the macro fouling must be captured by the cleaning company, and effluent water coming back into the sea will have removed organisms and materials down to a microscopic size (0.000001 metres).

Rigorous testing

For BIMCO and the partners involved, the next step is to implement the standard on a small scale and several shipping companies have already signed up to participate.

“It is one of the typical, long term, unglamorous, behind the scenes efforts that the industry undertakes, which will hopefully have a wide-reaching positive impact on the marine environment and the industry,” Loosley says.

The industry will now work to implement the standards with a number of stakeholders, including of paint manufacturers, in-water cleaning companies, shipowners, ports, and classification societies. These stakeholders will have to update their procedures, which will lead to successful cleanings, and ultimately – BIMCO and ICS hopes – to a general wide-spread acceptance of the standard and associated certification and in more ports allowing in-water cleaning.

The standard details planning, the documentation and assessment part of the operation, as well as the actual cleaning, the management of the effluent – the water involved in the cleaning – including the capture of particles, before it is released back into the sea.

The standard also includes:

  • Criteria for the cleanliness of water pumped back to sea
  • Methods to help shipowners act before the biofouling growth and coverage become severe
  • An approval procedure for cleaning companies
  • Minimum reporting requirements
  • Minimum requirements for an inspection, service and cleaning reports

The standard was developed by a coalition of companies and organisations including:

Akzo Nobel, BIMCO, C-Leanship, CMA Ships, DG Diving Group, Fleet Cleaner, Hapag-Lloyd, Hempel, HullWiper, International Association of Classification Societies, International Chamber of Shipping, Minerva Shipping, Portland Port (UK), Port of Rotterdam and PPG Coatings.


Source: bimco


Roboat is a 5-year research project and collaboration between the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In developing the world’s first fleet of autonomous floating vessels for the city of Amsterdam, it investigates the potential of self-driving technology to change our cities and their waterways.

Roboat is a new kind of on-demand infrastructure: autonomous platforms will combine together to form floating bridges and stages, collect waste, deliver goods, and transport people, all while collecting data about the city. How can we re-imagine urban infrastructures with cutting-edge technologies? Join MIT Senseable City Lab and AMS Institute newsletters to receive news about Roboat.


Source: roboat


Autonomous surface vehicles are gaining increasing attention worldwide due to the potential benefits of improving safety and efficiency. This has raised the interest in developing methods for path planning that can reduce the risk of collisions, groundings, and stranding accidents at sea, as well as costs and time expenditure. In this paper, we review guidance, and more specifically, path planning algorithms of autonomous surface vehicles and their classification. In particular, we highlight vessel autonomy, regulatory framework, guidance, navigation and control components, advances in the industry, and previous reviews in the field. In addition, we analyse the terminology used in the literature and attempt to clarify ambiguities in commonly used terms related to path planning. Finally, we summarise and discuss our findings and highlight the potential need for new regulations for autonomous surface vehicles.


Research into path planning and collision avoidance (COLAV) algorithms for autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs) is motivated by continuing efforts to optimise operations and improve operational safety and performance. The general premise is that introducing higher levels of autonomy can reduce accidents, fuel costs, and operational costs (including crew), and improve regularity by reducing the frequency and consequence of human errors. To illustrate, the Annual Overview of Marine Casualties and Incidents 2019 [1] developed by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) states that in 2011–2018, more than 54% of all casualties with ships were navigational casualties—a combination of contact (15.3%), collision (26.2%) and grounding/stranding (12.9%) accidents. Moreover, from a total of 4104 accident events analysed during the investigations, 65.8% were attributed to human erroneous actions. Statistics also show that 41.7% of all casualties took place in port areas, followed by 27.4% in the coastal areas (territorial sea). These numbers indicate an increased collision risk when navigating in congested waters with several static and dynamic obstacles. The aforementioned high percentage of navigational casualties (54.4%) and attribution to human erroneous actions (65.8%) for human-controlled ships can likely be reduced by introducing autonomy in the operation of surface vessels. In addition, autonomous vessels are well suited for missions in dangerous and rough sea environments, for example by better real-time decision-making or in the case of unmanned vessels, removing the risk of human lives. On the other side, increased autonomy is also associated with several important challenges related to operation in open, coastal, and congested waters, energy consumption, environmental abnormalities, personnel requirements, and national security issues that need to be considered.

The autonomous ship market is expected to grow at a fast rate in the near future. According to Global Autonomous Ship and Ocean Surface Robot Market: Analysis and Forecast, 2018–2028, a market intelligence report by BIS Research [2], “the autonomous ship market in terms of volume is expected to grow at the rate of 26.7% during the period 2024–2035 and cumulatively generate a revenue of $3.48 billion by 2035.” Hence, we expect to see an increased demand for the development of autonomous systems technology in the maritime industry, and for ships in particular.

To enable safer systems on waters with increased autonomy requires development of improved and reliable guidance, navigation and control (GNC) systems. The focus of this paper is on guidance systems, and more precisely on path planning and collision avoidance algorithms. Looking at the research done in the field so far, it is of our interest to address the ambiguities in the terminology, investigate the regulatory framework associated with autonomous vessels, and decompose the GNC system of an ASV to review different types of path planning algorithms. Our research aims at summarising the main components that need to be considered when developing a path planning and/or collision avoidance algorithm, based on information available up to date. Whereas much of what we present is general across vessel size, other considerations will differ whether the vessel is a small boat or a large ship. In such cases, the reader should note that larger ships are our main focus.

The three main contributions of this paper can be summarised as follows: (i) an elucidation and clarification of terminology related to surface vessels and guidance systems; (ii) an analysis of the existing regulatory framework for ASVs; and (iii) a suggestion for classifying path planning algorithms. Thus, our work should be of interest for investigators and developers of intelligent algorithms for path planning and collision avoidance for ASVs. Indeed, in an accompanying article in this journal [3], we extend the classification scheme presented here, and analyse and classify algorithms presented in 45 different peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The remainder of this paper is organised as follows: Sect. 2 presents advantages, challenges, and current development of ASVs, defines terminology used within this scope, and provides an overview of previous survey papers. Section 3 details regulatory guidelines that define autonomy and control safety of ASVs. Section 4 presents the authors’ view on the GNC modules for ASV navigation, from the perspective of path planning and collision avoidance. Section 5 provides our proposed classification of path planning algorithms. Section 6 contains a discussion, and finally, some concluding remarks are drawn in Sect. 7.


This section presents advantages and challenges of ASVs and recent advances in the industry, clarifies some of the terminology used in the literature, and provides an overview of previously published review papers in the field.

Advantages and challenges of ASVs

ASVs have the potential to outperform traditional vessels with regard to safety. An increased adoption of ASVs could lead to a reduction in accidents caused by human erroneous actions, which currently contribute to a large share of ship casualties. However, the advantages of ASVs are not limited only to the safety aspect. Below, we identify some current, and potential future, advantages of ASVs:

  • Reduced, or eliminated, need for human control and hence, human errors.
  • Longer duration performance and enabling more hazardous missions than manned vehicles.
  • Improved reliability compared to remotely controlled unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) that demand highly reliable and secure communication means, and for which failure of communication may lead to a loss of navigation, accidents, or disaster.
  • Enhanced controllability and deployability, in addition to increased flexibility in sophisticated environments, including so-called dirty, dull, harsh, and dangerous missions.
  • Reduced personnel costs and improved personnel safety and security, when no crew is onboard and collision avoidance intelligence is implemented.
  • Extended operational capabilities, functionality, and precision, which also make ASVs increasingly required in many fields, e.g., scientific research, environmental and hydrographic surveys, ocean resource exploration, military operations, and other applications.
  • Reduced risks of piracy, including elimination or kidnapping of crew members.
  • Increased available space and tonnage for cargo by eliminating the need for life support systems and crew facilities (hotel, catering, and sanitary rooms).
  • Reduced design constraints from not having humans operating the vessel.
  • Removed need for a traditional navigation bridge by placing sensors optimally anywhere on the vessel.

Importantly, autonomy is the means to ensure these advantages and not a goal in itself. Moreover, ASVs are still facing several challenges before global commercialisation and operations in international waters. Some of these issues are identified below:

  • Regulatory framework. Legislation regulating ASVs is still unclear. Significant international cooperation is required in order to set up navigation and safety regulations as well as the design standards.
  • Liability. There are many legal challenges that arise if there is no captain onboard, e.g., who is liable for the actions being made.
  • Cyber-security. A big concern for all autonomous systems, cyber-security is of vital importance. A flaw in software may give unauthorised access to hackers who could take control of a ship.
  • Safety in navigation. A vessel sailing in open waters faces many risks including harsh weather conditions, obstacles, especially dynamical or underwater, or even risks related to third parties. Special attention should be brought to obstacles that cannot be detected by the automatic identification system (AIS), such as people in water, recreational vessels, small water equipment, or sea animals. An autonomous ship must be able to handle such challenges by itself without human control.
  • Reliability and maintenance. To operate at deep-sea for extended periods of time it is crucial to have good condition monitoring systems, maintenance plans, and redundancy. If there are no engineers onboard, the planned maintenance must take place at port. This may require longer stays in port, and vessel off-hire is expensive. Furthermore, to achieve satisfactory reliability, it may be required to redesign many of the ship systems to improve the mean time between failure (MTBF) and add redundancy.
  • Connectivity. Even though there is an increasing number of satellites in orbit, there is a varying degree of coverage and bandwidth depending on vessels’ location. Areas at high latitudes have poor coverage and are particularly challenging since most satellites are geostationary above the equator. In addition, a vessel could lose connectivity due to weather, damage to crucial equipment (such as antennas), and interference.
  • Piracy. Even if the ASV is unmanned, the cargo and the ship itself have a high value and is subject to hijacking. An unmanned ship may also be easier to seize.

Recent advances in the industry

Nowadays, leading shipbuilding companies already have a vision of a future with mostly autonomous vessels on waters. In what follows, we present some recent advances and future predictions among important actors in the industry.

In their €6.6 million project, Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA) (2015–2017), Rolls-Royce anticipated having ocean-going autonomous ships by 2025 [4]. Moreover, in 2017, Rolls-Royce, in cooperation with Svitzer, demonstrated project Sisu—the world’s first remotely operated commercial vessel [5]. Subsequently, in 2018, Rolls-Royce in cooperation with Finferries started the collaboration project Safer Vessel with Autonomous Navigation (SVAN) to test the findings of the AAWA project [6]. The aim of the project is to develop solutions to optimise the safety and efficiency of ships. So far, they have succeeded in designing and commercialising components for automatic operations such as autocrossing systems, which resulted in “the world’s first fully autonomous ferry” FalcoFootnote1 (see Fig. 1) successfully demonstrated in 2018 [7]. Furthermore, in another joined collaboration with Intel, Rolls-Royce is trying to make autonomous ships a reality by providing new technologies, intelligent awareness systems, and other products to enhance the operational safety of ASVs [8]. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the Rolls-Royce division mainly involved with autonomous ships, Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine, recently was acquired by Kongsberg Gruppen [9].


Source: link


– The Global Autonomous Ships Market has witnessed strong growth owing to the growing sea-borne trade across the globe, coupled with the lack of professional sailors. Moreover, the growing adoption of connected smart ships as they offer various benefits such as vessel traffic management data and fleet health monitoring data is also driving the market growth.

JERSEY CITY, N.J.Feb. 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Verified Market Research recently published a report, “Autonomous Ships Market” by Type (Fully Autonomous, Remote Operations, and Partial Automation), by Application (Commercial and Military), by Geography. According to Verified Market Research, the Global Autonomous Ships Market was valued at USD 6.39 Billion in 2020 and is projected to reach USD 10.02 Billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 6.64 % from 2021 to 2027.


Source: prnewswire