Shipping Firms Experiment with Crewless Cargo

( – A new test of an autonomous ship off Norway’s coast successfully completed a completely crewless thirteen-hour journey. The ship is just one test ship under AUTOSHIP which is an EU-funded program aiming to develop new technologies for large vessels.

This program was brought together by Kongsberg Maritime which has been conducting research into autonomous shipping. The trip marked a pivotal moment in developing autonomous technology for shipping, although it still has a while before it would be ready to be used officially.

Markus Laurinen, growth and solutions director at Kongsberg Maritime said that autonomous shipping vessels are possible but that there are external factors that will be affected like the acceptance of the auto technology and gaining customers’ trust.

“We are doing this step-wise. We have a road map where we are role by role moving the functions to the remote operating center,” Laurinen said. “This enables all the stakeholders involved to also learn and adapt to this big change that is happening. This is concerning a big amount of stakeholders, the freight owners, the ship owners, operators, the regulatory bodies, and even the technological development bodies.”

Officials have said that the biggest hurdle they’re facing is convincing national and global maritime regulators to get on board with the technology. Tests like these help to prove the possibility of the autonomous ship to decision-makers and to sway them in the company’s direction.

The company said they are implementing this autonomous technology into six large and five smaller vessels. This technology is made possible mainly by radar systems and sensors, but they will likely need more industry collaboration to advance this technology further.

According to the International Maritime Organization, there are four levels of autonomy, with level four being fully anonymous. There are still issues that need to be worked out before a ship can be a level foud including making sure all safety requirements are met. Experts are looking into how autonomous sailing for a ship would be and how they can ensure that the technology of the ship knows how to navigate obstacles the same way a captain would.

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