Singapore starts researching autonomous ships

Port of Singapore terminal. Credit: Joachim Affeldt

Singapore is launching a centre to research the development of autonomous ships.

The inauguration of the Centre of Excellence for Autonomous and Remotely Operated Vessels (CEAOPS) was announced at the Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI) forum on 10 October.

The centre will explore how autonomously and remotely operated vessels can operate safely and efficiently, as well as how vessels can make use of smart maritime systems and solutions in complex operating environments.

CEAOPS is the first initiative funded under Singapore’s Maritime Transformation Programme and will be located at the Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine, Singapore.

SMI executive director Sanjay C Kuttan, said, “The establishment of CEAOPS to further deepen Singapore’s capability in MASS [maritime autonomous surface ships]-related research, by co-creating solutions together with the local R&D [research and development] community and industry players, is a critical and purposeful step towards making Maritime Singapore MASS future-ready.”

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) aims to bring the operation of autonomous ships within the existing IMO regulatory framework. A scoping exercise was initiated at the 98th meeting of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in June 2017 with the target of identifying which provisions (in an agreed list of IMO instruments) may or may not be applicable to ships of varying degrees of autonomy. The list of instruments covered includes those covering safety (SOLAS), collision regulations (COLREG), loading and stability (Load Lines), training of seafarers and fishers, search and rescue (SAR), tonnage measurement (Tonnage Convention), and special trade passenger ship instruments.

Quah Ley Hoon, chief executive of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), said, “Digitalisation and new technologies will disrupt the future of the maritime industry, and the evolution of MASS could potentially enhance global maritime trade more efficiently and safely in how we ship goods around the world. We’re pleased to support the establishment of CEAOPS as it will enhance MPA’s efforts in establishing Singapore as a MASS ready port and a leading technology cluster for MASS technologies.”