An automated maritime industry is an irony; it relies on human intelligence to develop a
complex series of interconnected technologies for its creation, but these will ultimately reduce the need for human intervention from a wide range of marine operations that have traditionally depended on crew and operators.
In practice, the development of process-driven, intelligent systems has the ability to reduce or remove the impact of human error and raise safety and efficiency standards to levels that are unachievable otherwise.
A well-programmed and maintained machine can work almost endlessly without any loss of efficiency. Equipment lifetimes can also be prolonged as smoother operations reduce the strain on mechanical components, and power consumption demands will be lower in line with rising efficiencies.
However, it is not one isolated development that will secure this safer, more efficient environment but many smaller advances that will be integrated together, with this process being critically dependent on internal and external stakeholder collaborations.
“The success of partial or fully autonomous operations will rely on greater connectivity between systems,” says Per Strandberg, Director R&D, Cargo Handling, MacGregor. “The
the important part will be to standardize connection protocols so that a system, comprising a
number of components, can work effectively together.
MacGregor’s pragmatic approach to the development of engineering solutions means that the progression of its autonomous portfolio is very much customer-driven.
ESL Shipping approached MacGregor to work collaboratively on developing the world’s first
autonomous discharging bulk cranes. Initially, three such cranes have been installed onboard one of ESL’s two new liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered bulk carriers, with an equivalent
shipset fitted on the second vessel and ready for future use.
The vessels are in operation in the Baltic and now waiting testing of the autonomous
discharging capabilities of the cranes.
Also nearing completion is the two-year trial of MacGregor’s first automated mooring system,
which has been developed in close collaboration with Kongsberg Maritime. The system will be
fitted on the fully-electric, 120 TEU open hatch container feeder vessel, Yara Birkeland, which will eventually perform autonomous shuttle operations for its Norwegian owner, Yara
MacGregor will deliver the autonomous mooring system towards the end of this year, with the vessel scheduled for delivery in 2020. “The containership will gradually move to autonomous
operation by 2022 and, during these two years, Yara will test its automated capabilities,” says
Jon Høvik, Head of Mooring and Loading Technology, Offshore Solutions Division,
MacGregor’s autonomous technology collaborations extend beyond these two examples.
The organization is part of the One Sea project, a high-profile ecosystem with a primary aim to
pioneer the development of autonomous commercial maritime cargo traffic by 2025. Through many different collaboration projects with key stakeholders and enhancing the collaboration processes, MacGregor aims to accelerate the adoption of intelligent systems and autonomous operations. These, alongside optimised cargo and load handling operations, will improve the efficiency, safety and sustainability of shipping.
For MacGregor, this includes the development of a practical digital agenda, designed to help customers enhance their operations through increased vessel earnings, operating more efficiently and reducing emissions per unit of cargo carried.
MacGregor has identified value that can be created by applying or deploying specific digital technologies. Examples include MacGregor’s proven Cargo Boost upgrade, which has benefitted more than 100 containerships in service, and the new Breakbulk Optimiser tool that provides data transparency and enables fact-based decision-making.