IMarEST addresses shipping automation and human skills

Sep 13 2019

The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST) has released a report, which appraises the capabilities and limitations of automation at sea.

This report grapples with the question of how humans and autonomous systems will work together.

IMarEST’s Marine Autonomous Surface Ships Special Interest Group (MASS SIG) conducted research and hosted two industry round table discussions - under the banner ‘Autonomous Shipping: Putting the human back in the headlines’ -  to explore the problem.

The first meeting took place in Singapore and looked at the commercial opportunities and threats of introducing remote and autonomous ships. This new report is the result of a round table held in Manila, which explored the intricacies of future human-machine integration in the performance of on board functions.

This round table, supported by BMT, Western Shipping, Peter Döhle, Wallem, KNect365 and MAAP, saw shipowners, operators, crewing managers, regulators and educators in attendance. They were asked to consider the changes likely to occur to on board roles, firstly looking around 10 years ahead to 2030 and then 30 years ahead to 2050.

The event was designed to further MASS SIG’s understanding of the ways in which advances in automation technology could, and should, be assimilated into the shipping industry.

The findings outline how human-machine collaboration can strengthen operations at sea and increase capability. They also predict the extent to which these changes and improvements will take place, depending on expected real-world needs and the practicalities of making such changes. To make the results easier to digest, the report looked at two hypothetical future vessels, the ’Horizon’, built in 2030, and her sister ship, ’Succession’, built in 2050.

“Automation is set to become increasingly pervasive in vessel operation. As advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning find their way into more and more ship systems, it is inevitable they will alter the role of seafarers: their tasks, responsibilities and required skills. A key challenge going forward lies not in teaching humans to trust machines – but providing them the skills and competencies to know when to stop trusting them.” Gordon Meadow, Chair, MASS SIG, explained.


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