UK Autonomous Shipping Data platform prototype required

Example data set showing vessel positions in and around Portland Harbour. Credit: Solis MARLab

The project team behind the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s (MCA’s) MARLab prototype data platform, a tool intended to significantly progress autonomous vessel development in the United Kingdom, has called for companies and organisations to participate in testing the prototype.

MARLab allows data to be shared between the MCA and other organisations, all of which will help in the development and testing of Marine Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) in UK waters. Data collected around marine traffic moments, weather, and even seabed information can then be shared with industry for programming of their autonomous vessels. This makes the tool a vital part of the development and testing process for MASS.

Since October 2019, the MARLab project team, which includes Solis Marine Consultants and Maritrace, have progressed software development while engaging with the UK MASS industry to determine how data sets held by the MCA and various government organisations can be best utilised with a view to encouraging the testing of autonomous and smart vessels in the country.

According to MARLab project manager Solis Marine Consultants, the first version of the MARLab platform has nearly 20 different, live data sets and available for review from its Port of Portland, UK test site. Current data sets include Live AIS, vessel arrivals, vessel-expected arrivals and sailings, vessels in port, wind and speed directions, bathymetry, chart data, tidal data, navigation exceptions, and a UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) package. The UKHO package is an interactive visual of fixed structures and other key-spatial data.

Rosalind Blazejczyk from Solis Marine said, “When we started looking at this, those interested in what we could produce in these data sets told us there were six that they felt were the most important to them. We are excited to say that five out of those six – AIS data, tidal data, UKHO geo-spatial data, and a hydrographic model of the test site at Portland – are all included.”

The MARLab project is funded by the UK Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

Dr Katrina Kemp from the MCA, in an earlier press release, said that the MARLab project “forms a vital part of a wider initiative by the MCA to make sure the UK is a world leader in autonomous and smart shipping, with UK waters being open for testing of this exciting new technology”.