East Australia Nautical Institute Branch Quarterly meeting –
Sydney 12 Feb 2020.
Presentation – Smart Ships: Smart Ports
Presenter – Capt. Rob Tanner AFNI, Senior Pilot, Port Kembla, NSW.
Report: Rob began the presentation going
back to 1974 to one of his first ships MV British Cormorant with 42
crew onboard and compared it to a current regular visitor to Port
Kembla, NYK’s car carrier ‘MV Iris Leader’.
The modern-day vessel has a
complement of 20 and the only thing the two ships really have in
common would be the radar and the autopilot.
Kendall Carter Branch
(left) and Rob Tanner AFNI
MV Iris Leader is one of the world’s first vessels trialling
autonomous operations, and last year sailed for around 6 hours
autonomously from China to Japan. Rob reckons “this is the way of
things to come” and all this has to do with the change of pace in
Last year Rob attended an Autonomous Ship Technology Conference in
Amsterdam. The presentations mostly related to current and emerging
shipboard technology and that humans will be replaced by that
technology. Humans were held to be superfluous as they are, it is
alleged, the root cause of most shipboard incidents. Maritime
Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) ship owners would not have to consider
any safety provisions or hotel services allowing more cargo space to
be available. This stimulated his thinking to explore what skills and
knowledge seafarers would need in the future and how the maritime
industry will address those skills and knowledge requirements.
Some of the major presentations were on vision technology where they
talked about Lidar (Light detection and ranging) and 360 deg thermal
camera imaging, which are then processed and fused with radar and
ECDIS inputs to provide options for multi target tracking and
predictions for collision avoidance.
Cyber security, a major topic, ensures that control of the vessel is
never lost and access to GPS is continuous and secure. To prevent
cyber-attacks a possible solution is to have Information &
Communication Technologies (ICT) trained humans, and authenticated
access to protect against system entry by cyber pirates.
Another topic discussed by ship brokers and maritime lawyers was on
the liability of MASS. Some said that the liability would lay with the
remote operator, or for level 4 MASS v/ls which are totally unmanned
it could be with the shipowner / operator or software engineers.
Another interesting point is at this time there is no legal definition
of what an Autonomous v/l is.
A speaker from an oil major made a bold statement “we need to get rid
of the bits of string”; of course referring to mooring lines on
vessels. Mooring lines cause injuries and deaths far too often and in
the interest of safety should be replaced with mooring devices such as
suction or magnetic mooring fender systems. Which got Rob thinking
“that smart ships of the future will require smart seafarers & smart
What is a Smart Port? A Smart Port is one that uses automation and
innovative technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big
Data, Internet of Things (IoT) and Blockchain to improve its
All these are new technologies that will lead us to a brighter and
connected future. The need for smart ports is more relevant today than
ever. Ships are getting bigger, goods are moving faster and
geo-political conflicts and pandemics such as Covid -19 create new
challenges for ports to deal with all around the world.
In a conversation that Rob had with Jillian Carson Jackson (Senior VP
Nautical Institute) on the topic, Jillian made some very valid
comments “that we need to investigate shipping lanes and controlled
water space, digital communications and its associated data collection
and the legal framework to underpin the innovation.”
Yara Birkeland – this year will see Norwegian owned and operated fully
electric powered zero emission autonomous feeder vessel ‘Yara
Birkeland’ commence operations in Norway. It will cut down 40,000 long
distance truck journeys and has auto-mooring equipment which requires
no manual handling. Initially the vessel will be manned, until
everyone is satisfied that unmanned operations are safe to continue.
The ship will revolutionise supply chain transport in Norway and the
commercial template may very well start a new supply chain logistics
task in Australia. The arrival of an autonomous vessel at an
Australian port may be sooner than everyone thinks, and we have to
start preparing for it.
What is autonomy? Rob talked about when mentioning autonomous ships,
it must be emphasised that it’s not necessarily talking about just
unmanned vessels and that many people misunderstand what the meaning
of autonomy is. It can be manned, but everything onboard can be
automated. Autonomy is said to be a process rather than an end in
itself. A journey towards increased or full automation of a system and
the reason to introduce autonomy is to improve systems performance.
Increased autonomy is thought to be interconnected with less
environmentally damaging emissions, increased efficiency and safety.
Humans will support the autonomous onboard system with the likelihood
of decreased incidents due to human error. With this in mind a human
centred approach is required when considering the design of shipboard
systems, so that people and machine can work together as a team.
A recent report from the World Maritime University in Norway looked at
how automation and technology will affect the future workforce. The
report said that the process will be evolutionary, rather than
revolutionary. The transport sector will become more efficient as more
automation is introduced, which will lead to improved productivity.
The transport volume is expected to increase into the future, with a
projected need for more transport workers.
Australian ship and port operators need to engage with the vision and
prepare for the future by observing what is happening elsewhere in the
world and learn from their experiences. As Rob says smart ships will
require smart ports. One example of a smart port operation is Searoad
Shipping in their Melbourne and Tasmanian port operations where they
introduced a mooring system that didn’t involve mooring lines, which
has greatly increased safety and efficiency into their operation.
Australia has the 5th largest shipping task in the world, and a few
years ago it was reported that the maritime sector contributed
approximately $20 billion to the national economy annually. Foreign
flag ships carry nearly all of the 98% of goods coming into and out of
Australia, and yet we do not have a domestic fleet of any
A possible future for our island continent is to use the ‘Blue
Highway’ that surrounds us with small manoeuvrable zero emissions
ships. These would reduce bottlenecks in our major ports, reduce
traffic congestion and pollution around major cities by taking many
thousands of trucks off the roads, and encouraging us to become more
efficient and environmentally sustainable.
Rob realises that there is a clear gap in the important understanding
of how humans will need to be involved with autonomous ships and smart
ports as we look ahead. This has provoked Rob to ask the question;
What is the future of Australian ports and shipping and how do we
build and maintain the necessary knowledge and skills for the humans
in the loop?
Capt. Patrick Walsh AFNI.
Assist Secretary SE Australia NI.
Article Update Links:
Joint Open Letter to United Nations Agencies from the Global Maritime
Transport Industry ....
Certification of Seafarers - pursuant to