News ID: 80205 |
Publish Date: 09:32 - 15 September 2018

British ports told to brace for autonomous ships

Autnomous shipping is far from a new concept. But still seen as a distant commercial reality there has been little discussion about its effect on ports. What would ports need to change and what could they gain from the transformation in vessel operations?

A new report warns vessel autonomy will mean changes in port infrastructure as well as more highly skilled personnel

OPERATORS of Britain’s ports and harbors should prepare for infrastructure and personnel changes in the event of autonomous shipping.

Progress in regulatory discussions and the development of coastal autonomous shipping in regions such as Norway, has prompted a report by Setfords Solicitors for the British Ports Association warning the industry of the challenges and opportunities that will emerge.

“Ports up and down the coasts of the UK may find that their customers will be utilising these ships, perhaps in areas where there is surveying going on, construction and servicing of wind farms, work on adjacent nuclear reactor sites and transportation of bulk cargoes,” the report said.

New technologies may change the landscape of port personnel because highly technical staff will be needed to cover shore-based operations.

“The advent of automated terminals and platooning of trucks means we are entering a new world of automation, which may make the use of port land more efficient and streamlined,” it adds.

The introduction of such vessels would have significant implications for ports’ reception facilities, including the quays where vessels berth amid reduced crew numbers.

Operators will also have to contend with augmented cybersecurity risks and potential hitches in communications with vessels. 

The International Maritime Organization launched a four-year scoping exercise in June 2017, exploring whether existing IMO conventions are sufficient and appropriate to regulate autonomous shipping.

Industry insiders have often remarked that national regulation facilitating autonomous shipping will be necessary and precede any international rules.

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