Maersk group is ahead of the game when it comes to testing remote control and autonomous shipping technology, says editor Martyn Wingrove, and where it leads others would be wise to follow.
Shipping goliath Maersk enjoys a unique position of having business interests in container shipping, terminals and tugs – which gives the Maersk group a clear vantage from which to see the business benefits and operational efficiencies to be gained from early adoption of autonomous shipping.
Maersk’s subsidiary Svitzer is trialling tug remote control as it works with Rolls-Royce Marine technology and Lloyd’s Register for technical validation. Tests started in 2017 and will continue this year and into 2019, trialling new aspects of the technology.
Svitzer chief operating officer Leonardo Sonzio told me last week that this technology will be available to the whole of the Maersk group ... affording the business greater opportunity to leverage economies of scale and create operational benefits across its various sectors.
In one example, intelligent awareness borne from remote-controlled tug testing is expected to be trialled on Maersk Line container ships. This begs the question, for me at least, whether Maersk will go further and retrofit its fleet for autonomous operations.
Alongside testing remote controls on its container ships, Maersk’s terminal division is toying with the idea of advancing remote pilotage of ships. This could mean keeping port pilots onshore instead of sailing them out to incoming ships. Or even removing pilots entirely, a contentious move if enacted.
Svitzer could also use remote control to tugs between ports, while the crew rests and is fresh for towage activities when the tug arrives.
As we are beginning to see from these kinds of examples, Maersk is committed to advancing remote control and autonomous vessel technologies.
With that level of commitment from such a big player, other shipping groups would be wise to follow suit in pushing the boundaries of of these technologies, as well.
Maersk can see the operational benefits ... can you?