Autonomous Systems Could Transform Shipping


Autonomous systems could revolutionize the next generation of breakbulk shipping, leading to wide-ranging regulatory and operational changes, according to a new report published by a consortium of industry experts.

Specialists from technical services firm Lloyd’s Register, QinetiQ and the University of Southampton, collaborated on the Global Marine Technology Trends 2030 report, which highlights a number of regulatory and socioeconomic impacts arising from autonomous systems.

“Networks of autonomous surface and underwater vessels are set to radically change the nature of maritime operations. Developments widely reported in the media, such as those in autonomous shipping, are happening with greater pace than expected as little as 2 years ago,” said Tim Kent, technical director, marine and offshore, Lloyd’s Register.

Sail The Oceans From dry Land 

Employment is a key concern for the report’s authors with evidence suggesting that skills and even the location of future crews could alter radically.

“Crewmembers of the future may become shore-based, managing vessels remotely from the office or the sea, creating the need for new training and skill sets. The potential for the command and control to be geographically displaced from the vessel will also require behavioral and cultural changes within the maritime community,” said Ajit Shenoi, director of the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute at the University of Southampton.

The report states that the principal challenges may not be the technology itself as much as the integration of autonomous systems into current maritime operations, legal and regulatory requirements.


In line with this trend toward greater integration of technology onboard vessels, Lloyd’s Register this week issued its first-ever marine type approval system for cyber-enabled components.

The approval procedure “defines a critical point in the evolution of smart technology” for the marine and offshore industry, and is designed to deliver an assurance system for the supply of cyber-enabled components.

“Type approval will work together with LR’s Cyber Enabled ShipRight document, providing type approved components to use in cyber systems, such as predictive maintenance and performance optimization,” said Luis Benito, marine and offshore innovation strategy and research director, Lloyd’s Register. “Together this offers the complete cyber solution for the future, from components to systems to functions.”