More autonomous ships will come. The development has already started. Unmanned ships could be far away but ships with smaller crews could soon be reality due to rapid technological development.
The biggest impact of this technological change will probably be in the required skills. It is obvious that requirements for engineers and navigators will change to include more knowledge of autonomous systems and the like. In addition, more all-round competence will also be required and not to mention the ability to handle unforeseen incidents that cannot easily be dealt with digitally. Such incidents could be navigational issues like grounding or collisions and different types of failures and breakdown in the machinery, electrical systems, etc.
If we compare with aviation, autonomous planes are already flying but stilled manned by two pilots. It is not many minutes during an intercontinental flight the pilots actually have to physically do something! Their job is mainly to monitor the instruments and the preprogrammed flight and – to be there if something goes wrong especially during takeoff and landing. A good example of this is the famous and successful landing of an airliner on Hudson river. The explanation given as the main reason for this being successful was that the pilots had done it before. Not in real life of course but several times in advanced full-scale simulator.
Maritime simulators have become more and more advanced over the years. Today we can do the same kind of training in these simulators as in aviation especially when the simulator model is a “digital twin” of the vessel in use. Even more: We can simulate both bridge and engine control rooms in holistic scenarios that reflect tomorrows all-round skill requirements.
Again; the people on-board any vessel, indeed also on autonomous ships, need to be prepared to meet incidents by training. The most efficient learning strategy to handle challenging situations is based on simulator training.
In today’s digital world you should test the suggested solutions and procedures before you go offshore. Such tests should be done by onshore and offshore personnel, together. A modern sub-sea simulator park like we have at Simsea, is an excellent arena for testing or even better; a complete dry run of your operation! These full-scale integrated simulators can run most offshore operations and consists of several real ship bridges with DP, engine rooms, offshore crane, WROV, ‘shift supervisor’ desk for coordination of the simulated operations and – the relevant field’s existing infrastructure. In these simulators, the operators have a focus on the solutions, the procedures and the tooling on a quite different level then by getting a presentation in a meeting room: Tooling design and detailed sequence planning for the operations are tested and confirmed; contingency operations and parallel operations are identified. By joint testing of procedures and task plans you will avoid stops in the operations offshore and redesign on deck due to unforeseen challenges. Building high performance teams Testing and thorough reviews of solutions and procedures give the team of onshore and offshore personnel the good feeling of professional confidence in the project and in each other. Of course, such confidence is a prerequisite for efficient execution offshore!
Back in November 2012 a serious incident occurred at Floatel Superior at the Halten bank close to Njord A. At the time there were 374 persons onboard the rig and over 330 of these were evacuated by six helicopters. A video illustrates the situation:
The focus is of course to prevent such incidents and to be able to handle the situation should it occur. And, training of rig personnel is a must! In a simulator we can create most dangerous situations and incidents which make simulators the preferred learning arena for such training. Flotel companies like Floatel International and Prosafe have trained and retrained their personnel systematically in full scale simulators at Simsea over the years since the incident at the Halten bank. Such training is however not only relevant for flotels; the risk for incidents like that on the Halten bank is just as serious for drilling rigs, especially during drilling operations. The training requires an accurate rig simulator model and will typically have learning objectives as:
. The focus is of course to prevent such incidents and to be able to handle the situation should it occur. And, training of rig personnel is a must! In a simulator we can create most dangerous situations and incidents which make simulators the preferred learning arena for such training. Flotel companies like Floatel International and Prosafe have trained and retrained their personnel systematically in full scale simulators at Simsea over the years since the incident at the Halten bank. Such training is however not only relevant for flotels; the risk for incidents like that on the Halten bank is just as serious for drilling rigs, especially during drilling operations. The training requires an accurate rig simulator model and will typically have learning objectives as:
Understand DP limitations and handle failures causing drift on or drift off situations created by different DP failures like loss of power, switchboard, thrusters, PRS failure etc.
Understand the rig’s stability and ballast configuration and handle stability situations like water flooding in ballast tanks, leakage in pump room, sensor failure, etc.
Understand Posmoor ATA limitations and set up the system including anchoring/line system; standoff position, different line lengths, tension etc. Handle failures like line break, sensor failures, sea/waves, etc.
Human factors like leadership, role distribution, communication, stress handling, decision taking etc. is an integrated part of the training. Training objectives and simulator exercises is set up in close cooperation with company management and course participants. he involvement of the course participants is essential to create the highest possible training motivation!
Operating a ship requires painstaking and continuous planning, training, and preparation and follow-up of procedures. When we operate a ship there is an inherent risk in everything we do , which may lead to huge disasters impacting on human life, the environment and material damage.
Most maritime incidents are covered by insurance. According to CEFOR the insurance companies covered incident cost of approximately 1,5 billion USD in 2015. The policy holders’ own share of this add up to significant sums of money. For material damage the policy holder will have to cover normally 150 000 USD per incident and 16 days off hire. A total cost of 1 million USD for an “average incident” is not too much to put into your budgets.
How can we reduce these costs?
The obvious answer is to increase the competence of the people onboard; their ability to assess risk, to avoid it if possible and to handle it should it occur is essential. When incidents occur absolute precision, perfect teamwork and split-second decisions are needed.
Modern shipping companies must ensure that their bridge personnel are safe seafarers, as well as skilled equipment operators.
In most aspects of life, we know that the only way to improve performance is by training. Loads of systematic and effective training. The maritime simulator centers offer such training for the maritime industry, they are there for you. The training focuses safe handling of critical situations requiring awareness, close interaction and responsiveness. The simulated operations are monitored and observed and the participants get feedback and proper debriefing. We can do it again and again until all participants get the good feeling of professional confident in various challenging situations. And the best of all; simulator training completely risk free!
We all know that maritime training and education increase knowledge, awareness and efficiency significantly. Yet, more and more companies choose to send staff with a bare minimum of training to work, vastly increasing the risk of incidents. Some argue that training
Calculating trajectories on sea and land, with old and new technology
Sitting before the stunning aqueduct of Segovia, I find myself reflecting over the ancient and modern aspirations to calculate trajectories – either the modern ECDIS-supported navigation of vessels across the high seas – or the ancient world’s carefully constructed aqueducts.
I’ve just finished the hitherto latest of a series of officer conferences. Given the opportunity to guide officers through an eight-hour program on situation awareness with a special focus on ECDIS navigation, I was impressed by the sincerity and open mindedness with which they have met me and the subject. The concept of ECDIS facilitated groundings is already well established, and there is mounting evidence of the importance of building ECDIS awareness. Still it is a mark of professionality for navigators to listen to a psychologist’s explanation of the inherent risks with ECDIS navigation. Cudos to these officers for this!
The Romans’ main challenge in leading the water over great distances was to have a continuous and as small as possible a gradient to the duct and this of course is the reason for the impressive “water bridges” that they were forced to erect over deep valleys (except when they used pipes for siphoning). Otherwise they kept the ducts on- or underground where they could. And obviously, the Roman’s capacity to use the arch in bridge-like structures was a prerequisite for this achievement. But this also required exact calculations to get the direction, gradient and supporting arches right. The aqueduct in Segovia was not by any means the longest, but even with its 15 kilometers they had to be sure beforehand that they had enough height left when they reached the endpoint.
The Roman’s got it right – nearly 2000 years later the aqueduct gloriously crosses Segovia. But even the Romans were bound by technology. E.g. it was very hard for them to get the direction and the gradient of the duct over long distances other than in strait lines. Hence, the aqueducts were constructed with straight lines and with angled- rather than curved turns. A curiosity you say? Well, angles rather than smooth turns would have increased the length of the duct, and it also meant battling up or down terrain rather than smoothly going around it. But this was clearly preferable over discovering by trial and error whether they had reached their destination at the right height…
Likewise, the modern day ECDIS is a remarkable device greatly facilitating navigators’ positioning and plotting of safe courses. For example, it is remarkably easy to plan and follow a voyage for days crossing the high seas of the pacific. However, the existing electronic nautical charts (ENCs) provided for the ECDIS in the high seas of the Pacific are remarkably bad! They are for the most part just available in a scale normally only meant for overview. They are also categorized at the poorest quality in the assessment scale for electronic charts (Category Zones of Confidence CATZOC), except for areas where no assessment of quality have been made! In fact, only last year the edge of a reef was discovered to extend over 3 nautical miles further than it was drawn in the chart! This was discovered the hard way – at great material cost!
Bearing this in mind, large margins of error must be calculated when sailing the high seas of the pacific, even if it means detours of several nautical miles. So even though navigators are used to high accuracy in ports and most coastal routes, they must be conscious of the limitations in the charts provided. – And this is but one of several aspects where safe navigation with ECDIS requires special awareness on the part of the navigator of a kind not taught in traditional ECDIS courses.
So as even the Romans did in construing the great aqueducts, so should we today maintain a sound awareness of the limitations of our technology when navigating.