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NI survey finds automation pragmatism

(Posted on 18/02/20)

Automation and autonomous systems have been key, and sometimes controversial points in the debate over the future of the maritime sector. While much of the discussion has focussed on the possibility of ships operated without crew, autonomous systems, which operate with little or no human intervention, are already in place on many vessels today.

The Nautical Institute has conducted a survey seeking to understand seafarers’ current thoughts on the introduction of automation. The NI is an international representative body for maritime professionals involved in the control of sea-going ships.

“Mariners were fairly pragmatic about the inevitable increase of technology on board. They can see scope for improvement but are also guarded about the potential risks,” said David Patraiko FNI, Director of Projects at the NI. “Many praised technology for the improvements it has brought, such as automatic positioning systems (ECDIS) making manoeuvring in tight areas easier, and automatic monitoring of cargo and unmanned spaces giving greater confidence.”

One of the big issues highlighted by the survey was trust. “For an autonomous system to be useful there needs to be a high degree of trust, either that the system won’t fail or that if there is a failure, there will be a ‘graceful degradation’ in the system giving the people onboard time to take over control,” David Patraiko said.

Mariners recognise that they will need new training to feel confident and competent in the use of new technology. This will be the focus of The Nautical Institute’s AGM and International Conference 2020, which will take place between 1-3 July at the University of Plymouth.

The event will feature a number of high-profile speakers including Frank Coles LLM FNI, CEO of the Wallem Group and Cdre James Fanshawe CBE MNI RN, Chair of the Maritime Autonomous Systems Regulatory Working Group (MASRWG).

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