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Autonomy is reshaping safety at sea

Autonomy promises to drive the next generation of maritime safetytech. By replacing “dull, dangerous and dirty” jobs with higher-paying and inclusive skilled technology roles, autonomous solutions will reduce the risk crew/ operator error, and enable smarter vessel designs and accelerate optimisation of vessel systems and predictive operational management.

Instead of waiting for hazards to arise, autonomy offers the opportunity to predict and mitigate risky situations before they happen. By combining analysis of the operational environment, mission activity, the human factors and asset interface we will increasingly have the ability to reduce cost, and improve accuracy; optimising performance at sea. Combining human strengths with technological accuracy

Paivi Haikkola, from One Sea Ecosystem, explains the reasons why autonomous ship technology should not be feared as a precursor to totally unmanned vessels:

‘People are good at perception, risk assessment and decision making, but what we are not good at is focusing on several things at the same time. For example, when a person at the bridge focuses on a single obstacle that is perceived as a risk, this can easily overshadow everything else that is going on at that time.’

By investing in autonomous technologies, the maritime sector can harness the strengths of human involvement, with the accuracy and algorithmic intervention of AI and sensor solutions to create safer, more efficient maritime operations. New smart autonomous and remote operation centres will need to consider the training, skills and increasingly address individual human behavioural needs analysis and overall operator optimisation. For instance, not every operator will have the same engineering experience - so future ROC design needs to consider that differing levels of automation and safety parameters may need to be in place for different operators. ROCs, in much the same way as air traffic control, will need to be able to manage operator burden, reducing risks of fatigue and human error.

Smarter, safer and more cost effective design

When you remove crew from a vessel you automatically remove many of the most costly and size constraining elements of ship design. Gone is the need for a bridge, bunks, kitchen, toilets. Vessels can be built smaller, more cost effectively - without gangways and corridors we can design smaller spaces, use fewer materials and reduce build and operational costs. We can remove dangerous engine rooms from the bowels of the vessel and provide easy access for shore-based maintenance and refits.

From sourcing of materials, to design of warehousing and production facilities and in our policy planning for vessel decommissioning we are determined to deliver reduced risk, and enhanced capabilities.

By optimising vessel design, we ACUA are focussed on delivering customer-centric solutions with capabilities and payloads that are designed for clients, not ones constrained by traditional vessel limitations. In future automated robotic loading will enable us to remove the need for unnecessary human/ vessel interaction, minimising contact points between hardware and human.

Onboard system design means that we can plan to not just deliver on, but exceed, new regulatory standards for autonomous vessels by providing not just second level systems redundancy - but independent third level redundancy for critical safety systems. We can use the industry's previous failures to boldly reimagine what safety can look like.

We can also move more rapidly towards renewable fuels like green hydrogen, reducing CO2 emissions by up to 99.1% whilst overcoming concerns for crews at sea operating with new fuels. Instead we can implement robust processes and controls for vessel system monitoring, maintenance and onshore operations and refuelling.

Vessel optimisation

By automating much of the mission planning, and CONOPs risk analysis we can ensure missions are deployed more smartly and efficiently. By delivering C2 systems that interact with the latest data and operational intelligence to delivery smart situational awareness and mission optimisation we can further reduce risk to assets and to the environment,

As we move towards our commercial prototype we are working to further deliver of the systems optimisation, including through our TRiG grant funding to further develop the vessels hydrogen system software.

This safety first approach to design and operations is a commercial imperative. It removes the dull, the dangerous and the dirty jobs of the past, and replaces them with the highly skilled jobs that will power the UK economy of the future.

At ACUA we are building a business on industry and technical expertise and over-engineered systems designed to put safety and system integrity first at every step. Through our accreditation of ISO 9001 and ISO 45001 we have reaffirmed our commitment to delivering on the vision and potential of smarter and safer robotics.


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