The Suzaku, a 95-meter, 749 metric ton container ship, made a 490-mile roundtrip voyage between Tokyo Bay and Matsusaka port in the city of Tsu on Feb. 26.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about the trip–except perhaps for the fact that the Suzaku had no crew.

Seismic Shifts

The Nippon Foundation, which deployed the vessel, said Suzaku operated under a fully autonomous navigation system including remote operation from the Fleet Operation Center in Chiba Prefecture.

The group said remote operation of ships from land can address such issues as crew shortages, aging crews and reducing accidents. The demonstration also shows have far ships have come since the days when sailors used the stars to find their way home.

The industry is facing seismic shifts as it increases technology while looking to reduce carbon emissions.

“Reduced crew levels through increased use of better systems as well as autonomous systems has been taking place for a number of years and in recent years more ambitious developments have started to take place,” said Stephen Turnock, head of department at the University of Southampton. “Initially on small vessels but increasingly scaling up.”

‘More Electric’

Turnock cited Ocean Infinity, a marine robotics company, said in May that it had successfully launched its first 78-meter Amarda vessel in Vietnam. The company said it is the first of 23 optionally-crewed, low-emission robotic ships.

Roughly 80% of the volume of international trade in goods is carried by sea and the percentage is even higher for most developing countries, so the economic importance of shipping cannot be understated.

The shipping industry also accounts for about 3% of the world’s carbon emissions.

Andrew Alleyne, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, said that while the industry is making a great deal of progress in the area of electrification, very few long-distance cargo ships will be electric.

“There isn’t the battery energy density to support this,” he said. “They will likely be ‘more electric.’ That is, there will be a power generation device, or devices, like a large generator that will distribute the power around the ship to thrusters, comms, refrigeration, etc. It will be a small floating microgrid.”

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‘No Silver Bullet’

Last year, the International Chamber of Shipping, which represents 80% of the global shipping industry, submitted plans to the International Maritime Organization that detailed measures the group said governments must take to help the industry achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

“There’s not one silver bullet here,” said Guy Platten, the chamber’s secretary general. “It’s going to be a multifaceted approach, but there’s no doubt that electric-powered ships have got their place.”

Platten said there are electric-powered ships in service now, but they tend to be short-haul vessels like ferries. He noted that there are other zero-carbon fuel sources, such as ammonia, hydrogen, and methanol.

“We’re confident that we can get to a net zero position by 2050 but it needs a number of things to happen to make that work,” he said, including research and development, availability of fuels and “some sort of carrot and stick” incentive to bridge the gap between the zero-carbon fuels which are currently more expensive to produce than fossil fuels.

Changes in the Workplace

Autonomous ships open up a new set of possibilities and challenges.

“There’s more autonomy being built into ships as each year passes,” Platten said, “but I think we’re a long way from seeing fully autonomous ships really operating commercially.”

More technology will also result in fewer and different kinds of jobs. The AFL-CIO’s Maritime Trades Department recently approved a resolution regarding the issue of automation and the workplace.

“Unions have been addressing and adapting to changes in the workplace – including job displacement caused by automation and digitization – for more than a century,” the group said. “But, all too often, technological advancements are used as cover by the rich and powerful to concentrate their wealth and turn good, family-supporting jobs into insecure, low-wage or precarious jobs.”

And there are the dangers of hacking as pirates move from the ocean blue to the dark web.

Rushing to Adopt the Technology

The shipping industry — among others — got walloped in 2017 when Maersk, the world’s largest container company, reportedly spent more than $300 million on repair and recovery from the NotPetya cyberattack.

“There’s all this excitement about autonomous vessels, but people are rushing to adopt that technology without fully realizing the implications it will have for safety and security,” said Rick Tiene, vice president with Mission Secure, a cybersecurity firm headquartered in Charlottesville, Va.

Tiene warned that there is less ability to notice and manually override a problem in an autonomous situation.

As companies move toward making a vessel autonomous, he said, “you will probably be upgrading any last vestiges of non-automated processes that are on that vessel, but as you increase automation, you’re also creating more potential cyber risk surfaces.”

“It’s a marketplace that runs on extremely tight margins,” Tiene said.” We’ve talked to somecompanies that don’t recognize the value or the need for cybersecurity, but we’ve talked to plenty that say, ‘we want to do this.’”

‘A Human in the Loop’

So, will we ever see the day when massive ships operate with no humans on board?

Turnock at the University of Southampton, said this may happen on smaller, less valuable vessels, but, as far as the larger ships, there will probably still remain specific roles that cannot be on-shored or replaced.

“The crew requirements of ships of the future are likely to change significantly,” he said. “There is a shortage of qualified crew as less people are prepared to sacrifice large periods of time away from friends and family. Autonomous systems can improve the work demands for those who do remain on board.”

“I think there will always be a desire to have a human in the loop,” Alleyne from the University of Minnesota said. “Things can go wrong on a ship that are not planned for. So it is always good to have a person on board. Even if not for the navigation, then for the subsystem maintenance.”

The technology exists to do this now under nominal conditions, he added, “it is just the unanticipated rare events that cause concerns.”





CREWEXPRESS STCW REST HOURS SOFTWARE - Paris and Tokyo MoU have announced that they will jointly launch a new Concentrated Inspection Campaign (CIC) on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) from 1st September 2022 to 30th November 2022

The Swedish Maritime Administration, together with the Swedish companies Tenfifty AB and Maranics AB, has conducted a research and innovation project during the past two years. Earlier this year, a full-scale test was launched of an emergency call detection system that uses the very latest AI technology. The system will be in operational use until the autumn when an evaluation will be made.

No calls missed

It was Tobias Nicander, rescue leader at the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre, who came up with the idea of getting help with listening to the emergency channel back in 2009. Calls can sometimes be difficult to interpret because the signals are weak and the messages are incoherent.

In addition, there is always the risk that the operator is already working on an alarm when a new case arises. There is thus a small risk of missing a call, but by transcribing all calls, the risk is reduced. The technology did not exist when Nicander got the idea, but ten years later, technology has caught up.

‘Not only do we get the calls texted, we have also defined keywords that should be clearly marked and should remain on our screens until we say that we have seen them,’ says Nicander. ‘We also receive documentation of what has been said on the channel, which can be helpful in improving the process in the future. It serves, for example, as a perfect base for education.’

Relieving and supporting operators

Already on the first day, the system drew the operators’ attention to two “Mayday” calls: one in Germany and one in Denmark. This shows that the AI solution can interpret even weak signals and that the operators really get the help they want, to be able to make even better assessments in the future.

In addition, it shows that the reach of the Swedish coastal radio network is good enough. The solution will not replace the operators. It is developed with the goal of relieving and supporting the operators in their daily work.


Even before it is formally delivered to the Navy, the future USNS Apalachicola (EPF 13) is performing a series of planned test events assessing autonomous capabilities integrated into the shipboard configuration, demonstrating that a large ship can become a self-driving platform.

Shipbuilder, Austal USA was awarded a $44 million contract last June to deliver autonomous capabilities to the Expeditionary Fast Transport vessel, while retaining capability for manned operations.

The ship is a multi-use military platform capable of rapidly transporting troops and their equipment, supporting humanitarian relief or operational efforts, and can operate in shallow waters. The contract modification called on Austal USA to install a perception and autonomy control suite, as well as several automation enhancements to the machinery plant, improving the hull, mechanical and electrical reliability while reducing the amount of personnel required for operations and maintenance at sea.

Austal USA is one of the six companies recently awarded contract modifications for “continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel” (LUSV).


Known as Unmanned Logistics Prototype trials, each of a series of test events now being carried out by the Navy’s PEO Ships increases the perception capabilities and complexity of behaviors demonstrated by the autonomous systems. Test evolutions to date include point-to-point autonomous navigation, vessel handling and transfer of vessel control between manned to unmanned modes.

“The autonomous capabilities being demonstrated by this prototype system represent a major technological advancement for the EPF platform, the Navy at large and our industry partners. EPF 13 will be the first fully operational U.S. naval ship to possess autonomous capability including the ability to operate autonomously in a commercial vessel traffic lane,” said Tim Roberts, Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager, PEO Ships. “This testing is a game changer and highlights that there is potential to expand unmanned concepts into existing fleet assets.”

Collaboration for the test events include team members from PEO Ships, PEO Unmanned and Small Combatants, Naval Systems Engineering and Logistics Directorate – Surface Ship Design and System Engineering, Supervisor of Shipbuilding – Gulf Coast, Naval Surface Warfare Center support from Carderock, Combatant Craft Division, Dahlgren and Philadelphia and the Navy’s shipbuilding and industry partners, Austal USA, L3 Harris and General Dynamics.

Future test events will add levels of difficulty and include night navigation, and differing weather and sea states. These trials will set crucial groundwork for autonomous vessel operations, to include vessel encounter and avoidance maneuvering and compliance with International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).

EPF 13 is scheduled to deliver to the Navy later this year.


The pollutant data gathered will provide the Spanish Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda with the capacity to monitor emissions of compliance with existing regulations, in a bid to reduce the harmful effects on human health and the environment.

According to the EMSA, the drones have also been deployed for complementary tasks including pollution detection, suppression of trafficking and smuggling operations, fisheries control, and vessel traffic management.

READ: Why are more ports using drones?

The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) is a Camcopter S100 unmanned helicopter operated by EMSA’s contractor, Nordic Unmanned. The RPAS is equipped with an emissions sensor from the contractor Explicit.

Upon collection of data, any indication of non-compliance can trigger an inspection at the next port of call to determine whether an infringement has taken place.

This is the second emissions monitoring campaign to take place in the area.

Emissions surveillance operations aim to reinforce the recent approval of the Mediterranean Sea as an emission control area by the International Maritime Organization which is expected to come into force in 2025.

While the Merchant Marine can use the measurements taken to check the passing ships’ pollutant compliance, the EMSA said the flights can also be directed to support the Spanish Maritime Safety Agency (SASEMAR) for search and rescue.

In April, the German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) and the EMSA conducted a large-scale drone measurement campaign.

Over a period of three months, drones were deployed to measure the sulphur content in exhaust plumes from ships in the Baltic Sea to identify violations of the applicable limit values.


Fugro has signed a contract with Kooiman Engineering and Van Oossanen Naval Architects for the naval design of Blue Prism™, Fugro’s next generation of uncrewed surface vessels (USVs). Specifically engineered for operations in both coastal and offshore environments, the Blue Prism™ will combine an ultra-low carbon footprint with high quality data collection, weather resilience and endurance characteristics.

Available to clients in 2023, Fugro’s Blue Prism™ will acquire bathymetry and sub-bottom data of the highest accuracy using hull mounted sensors, whilst also having the ability to tow multiple geophysical sensors. Capable of beyond line of sight operations, it will be the first low carbon autonomous vessel to combine these advanced vessel characteristics and sensors. Together with Fugro’s smart data management software, the speed and endurance of the Blue Prism will reduce risk and accelerate project delivery in offshore wind, hydrographic charting and coastal resilience.

Perry van Oossanen, Managing Director and Naval Architect at Van Oossanen Naval Architects, said: “We are thrilled to be part of this exciting project in which the best technics in Dutch ship building are combined in this new uncrewed ultra-efficient vessel. To re-think the design and lay-out of a vessel without a crew is a dream come true for a naval architect.” Maarten Kooiman, Director of Kooiman Engineering, said: “The collaboration between Kooiman and Van Oossanen has already led to innovative solutions, and we are pleased to be able to help Fugro take the next step in uncrewed vessels.”

Coverage Briefing

Fugro’s Blue Prism™ USV will have greater endurance, improved weather resilience and ultra-low carbon emissions

Frank Koopman, Fugro’s Global Director Marine Site Characterisation, said: “Autonomous vessels play an important role in the future of the maritime survey sector by improving safety, reducing carbon emissions, and delivering high quality data more efficiently. We chose to work with Kooiman Engineering and Van Oossanen Naval Architects because of their extensive track record in innovative ship design and hydrodynamics and we look forward to working with them on this exiting project as we are determined to grow our fleet of USVs for safer, more sustainable marine operations.”
Source: Fugro

As early as autumn, Deutsche Post is to transport parcels along the River Spree in Berlin by solar powered boat.

The postal operator is in talks with the districts where this would take place, as infrastructure needs to be put in place at the landing stages where the ship would dock. In a statement, Deutsche Post said “We plan to initially deploy at least one solar-powered ship on the Spree,” it said. “The starting point will be Berlin’s Westhafen.”

Initially, “Measured against the total daily volume, however, it will be comparatively small quantities at the beginning,” Deutsche Post said in its statement. From the docks, parcels will be loaded onto land transport vehicles for final-yard delivery to addresses.

The project, if launched, would be part of a study with the Technische Universität Berlin (TU). Deutsche Post continued, “In metropolitan regions with an existing waterway infrastructure with low capacity utilisation, the transport mode ship usually offers massive free capacities for shifting freight traffic from the congested roads to the water.”

Ultimately, Deutsche Post would use unmanned, autonomous vessels for the deliveries, further reducing costs.


Norway-based open hatch and conventional bulk carrier operator G2 Ocean has signed with StormGeo for weather routing and voyage performance services, using the BonVoyage System (BVS) and s-Insight platform for route optimisation.

G2 Ocean covers 37 trade lanes and operates more than 120 vessels, transporting wood pulp and other forest products, aluminium, steel, granite, and industrial minerals.

“Through the s-Insight platform, we gain good insight into current and historical voyage routing and performance, which help us make better decisions,” said Trond Aga Haug, Fleet Performance Manager at G2 Ocean.

“We have installed the BonVoyage System (BVS) onboard our vessels. This tool gives our crew high-quality and accurate weather maps at their fingertips – assisting the master and officers in making good routing decisions and safeguarding the vessel, crew, and cargo.”

s-Insight is a cloud-based self-service web portal providing onboard and onshore validation of ship-to-shore data streams, offering G2 Ocean an overview of its entire fleet with information on vessel location, weather conditions, speed, and fuel consumption.

BVS offers route optimisation, voyage planning, and weather forecasting support to optimise routes, monitor weather conditions, and plan for optimal navigation.

“StormGeo is very excited to have G2 Ocean onboard and provide actionable decision support with our advanced tools and route analysis experts,” said Rolf Reksten, VP of Route Advisory Services at StormGeo.

“We have deep experience in routing bulk carriers and offer a future-proof solution that not only provides weather routing and fleet performance services but also lays the foundation for an environmentally compliant operation. We look forward to being G2 Ocean’s partner in the digital future of shipping.”


The Mayflower Autonomous Ship Project (MAS400) is a collaboration between ProMare and IBM Research.  The project is also affiliated with the Submergence Group, A U.K. company that “designs and manufactures manned and unmanned submersibles.” (2)

In a recent press release, IBM provided the following description of the fully autonomous marine vessel with an “AI Captain”:

“In a voyage lasting 40 days and conquering approximately 3,500 unmanned miles at sea, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship arrived in North America in Halifax, Nova Scotia on June 5, 2022.  Following two years of design, construction, and AI model training, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) was officially launched in September 2020. Fast forward to today, June 6, 2022, we celebrate the completion of MAS’s historic transatlantic voyage from Plymouth, UK to its North American arrival in Halifax, Nova Scotia yesterday, June 5.  With no human captain or onboard crew, MAS is the first self-directed autonomous ship with technology that is scalable and extendible to traverse the Atlantic Ocean.”  (1)

Fast Company reports that the MAS400 was “originally headed to Washington, D.C., the ship—which is propelled by a solar-driven hybrid electric motor and backup diesel generator, and guided by artificial intelligence, cloud, and edge computing technologies—diverted to Canada last week so the team could fix a faulty generator starter. Later this month, it will continue to Plymouth, Massachusetts, where the first Mayflower landed in 1620, before arriving in D.C. in July.”  (2)


A project to develop hydrogen-powered, remotely controlled, and autonomous-ready containerships is moving forward with a funding grant from Norway. The project, which is being led by the Dutch intermodal transport company Samskip and marine robotics company Ocean Infinity, targets launching by 2025 saying it could enable one of Europe’s first green corridors.

Called SeaShuttle, the project calls for two vessels that would operate between Norway’s Oslofjord and Rotterdam in the Netherlands each with a capacity of 500 TEU. The Samskip-Ocean Infinity partnership covers both the construction and operation of the ships, in a collaboration that seeks to push forward towards zero-emission, efficient and safe, multimodal logistics. Each of the SeaShuttles would be powered by a 3.2MW hydrogen fuel cell.

Announced in April 2022, the project is taking its next step forward with a $15 million funding commitment from ENOVA. The state enterprise which operates under Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment, is designed to promote a shift towards more environmentally friendly energy consumption and production, as well as technologies based on sustainable energy.

“Securing this funding provides a platform to make emissions-free container shipping a reality,” said Are Gråthen, CEO of Samskip Norway. “Together, Samskip and Ocean Infinity will also accelerate their plans to advance autonomous ship technologies, and remote operation of ships and cargo handling equipment.”

According to the companies, SeaShuttle could create what amounted to one of Europe’s first zero-emission green corridors and serve as a demonstration for other projects. Several other projects are also under development to launch in Norway, but they are focusing on short sea routes. Work began last year on building a pair of autonomous, all-electric ro/ro cargo vessels for Norwegian grocery distributor Asko. They will operate crossing the Oslofjord, while Furniture manufacturer Ekornes announced it was partnering with German logistic company DB Schenker along with design firm Naval Dynamics for the study of the new autonomous vessel to operate on a 23-mile route in Norway. Yara has also begun testing on the Yara Birkeland targeting completing certification for autonomous operations by 2024.

Christoffer Jorgenvag, CCO, Ocean Infinity, commented: “Ocean Infinity’s enabling technologies can facilitate green corridors but also the broader decarbonization and transformation of maritime operations. The emphasis today is on the SeaShuttle vessels, which are just part of Ocean Infinity’s overall strategy of unlocking innovation to deliver truly sustainable maritime operations.”

The companies said that the funding means the partners can move forward to contract for two new 500TEU ships installed with a main propulsion solution that can be adapted to run on hydrogen fuel. A diesel-electric propulsion plant will also be on board as backup, although Gråthen emphasized, “We have faith that green hydrogen will be affordable and available in Norway.”