KEEPING PACE WITH A SMART FUTURE By Christopher J. Wiernicki, Chairman, President and CEO, ABS
n the past year, the maritime industry has taken some significant steps on the journey to autonomous shipping: we have moved from the theoretical realm into a commercial world of wellresourced projects. Publicly funded ventures are underway in the U.S., Japan, Singapore and China, while the public and private sectors are leading similar initiatives in northern Europe. Tomorrow is arriving very quickly, as evidenced by the shorter cycle times between the announcement of new projects and the technologies to support them. Smarter ships are already here and we will see their ‘intelligence’ grow in the next few years. This will give rise to the next generation of safety systems, in which cyber and software stand side by side with traditional systems for structures and machinery. In our central role as the industry’s technical connector, class will be required to issue new rules, guides and advisories for cyberenabled systems and components, software and data management and security. The rise of new technologies and the pace of change will gain velocity as the emergence of data-driven and performance-based systems and regulations increasingly drive our
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decisions. Class will be central to these discussions, helping to ensure that our industry has the technical support it needs to optimize asset performance and continue to strengthen our collective safety record. As ships get smarter, owners will expect the incremental increases in operating efficiency to reduce costs and emissions. In turn, this will further promote safety; any steps that improve operational reliability will have safety benefits. At ABS, safety is in our DNA. We take great pride in being at the top of all the most recent Port State Control (PSC) tables compiled by the independent maritime authorities in Tokyo, Paris and the U.S. As an organization that is relied upon by industry to offer timely technical support in an era when the pace of technological change is rapidly accelerating, the PSC tables illustrate that our class-centric strategy is paying safety and performance dividends for our clients. As a result, market confidence in ABS continues to provide us with the biggest order book for new ships among class organizations. Maintaining that trust, and our strong commitment to safety, will continue to motivate us as we support the industry’s
transition towards smarter ships. From a technical perspective, we have entered the initial stages of an era that Klaus Schwab called the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). Industry 4.0 is all about connectivity. It is an era that promises realtime enterprise as machines and devices communicate with each other, providing the type of instant information that will allow for an immediate response to demand. At its core is the Internet of Things, a network of physical devices embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity-enablers that allow these objects to collect, exchange and analyze data. From a marine perspective, these technical trends are giving rise to the creation of unprecedentedly connected cyber-physical systems that blend information and operating technologies. We are just beginning to understand the potential of Industry 4.0; but we know the learning curve will see fully automated shipping develop in stages, with the first pilot projects held in regional/national waters until global regulation catches up. Initially, ships will operate with reduced crews—and remote support—while functions such as the monitoring of operational health and performance are automated. To varying degrees, the development of these “smart” capabilities has already begun. Embedded sensors are collecting and reporting data, supporting the auto-analytical management of system functions and ship processes. As the maritime industry continues along its journey to full autonomy, it will slowly begin to rely on robotics to supplement or complete simple and then complex functions, albeit with direct human oversight. As the systems and regulations mature, the automation of complex functions will become more commonplace, initially with remote human oversight and control. Eventually, the technology and systems will be developed to reliably support the autonomous control of complex functions in complete independence. On the water, each stage of this journey will be represented by the phased emergence of: remotely operated ships in local jurisdictions; remotely controlled but unmanned ships in coastal waters; remotely controlled, unmanned ocean-going ships; and finally fully autonomous ocean-going vessels. At each step, the technology introduced will be disruptive to various degrees.