It is reported that the first fully autonomous ship will be put into operation around 2020. In the past few years, we has worked with Shanghai Maritime University and the Hong Kong Merchant Navy Officers’ Guild to conduct the research on the impacts of Marine Autonomous Surface Ship (MASS) on the seafarer’s career and MET.
Thanks to rapid improvement of technology, the navigation and management of ships is further developed towards intelligence and automation. As defined by IMO, Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship means a ship, which, to a varying degree, can operate independently without man-machine interaction. Furthermore, some researchers hold that unmanned vessel could also enjoys the same rights in the stipulation of UNCLOS Convention in public sea and exclusive economic zone of right of navigation and the right of innocent passage in territorial sea.
The key technologies for autonomous vessels include Cyber-physical Systems, Integrated Bridge System, environmental information perception, collision avoidance path planning, track control, Internet of Things, cloud computing and big data. The development of autonomous ship is certain to influence the standard and consequently effect on the seafarer’s post and number. In the case of adequate technical support and early warning systems, some operations may be automated, but the standby personnel are ready for manual control. Crews will rely more on computers and automation technology. the number of crew members on board has been generally maintained at around 22 for decades. Development of ship with process automation has no obvious impact on the number of crews and the position but the post has greater requirements for automation, information related knowledge and logical and critical thinking abilities.
According to the report, the most representative general ships of “3000 gross tonnage and above” and “main engine power 3000 kw and above” have been selected as the research object. Under the same type of ship, the minimum safety manning of remote control ship is 2 more than the traditional ship. The personnel required for ship navigation will increase instead of decrease. Although the captain may be converted to a shore-based captain and the chief engineer to a shore-based technician, some technical posts on the shore will be added. Moreover, for the remote-control ship without crew, its navigation is completed by the no onshore remote-control personnel, instead of depending on the onboard crew. Therefore the number of crew equipped in ships and the types of posts have been greatly reduced.
In maritime education and training, the breadth and difficulty of relevant information technology knowledge will increase. Training requirements in areas such as conventions and regulations will be more stringent. Customised specialised training will be more common. The importance of engineer technology training will be strengthened. Logical and critical thinking training will be strengthened. Leadership training will increase.
To conclude, such marine autonomous surface vessel will have higher requirements for shore-based technical support personnel. What unmanned vessels need are higher level and well-educated talents to work in the vessel operation center, providing technical support and decision-making for the vessel’s navigation and operation. The knowledge structure required by maritime practitioners on Remote-control vessels with crew members has changed greatly.
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