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Remote monitoring will lead to autonomous vessels

Tue 26 Sep 2017 by Martyn Wingrove reporting from Abu Dhabi

Remote monitoring will lead to autonomous vessels
Remote vessel monitoring and autonomous ships was discussed in Abu Dhabi

More remote monitoring and control technology will be used on offshore support vessels, tugs and workboats as owners and oil companies manage fuel consumption and lower costs.

This technology trend has started with monitoring fuel consumption and engine performance on vessels. Within three years it will include unmanned surface vessels being trialled by oil companies for controlling remotely operated vehicles underwater.

Miclyn Express Offshore (MEO) fleet manager Capt Sanket Ashok Shukla told Riviera Maritime Media that his company would be willing to consider remotely controlled or even autonomous vessels in the future.

His comments followed a seminar on future-proofing the offshore industry, hosted by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology at Seatrade Offshore Marine & Workboats Middle East event in Abu Dhabi.

During that event, Rolls-Royce Marine senior vice president for concepts, innovation and digital systems, Oskar Levander, said he expected a commercial remote-controlled or autonomous vessel to be operating in 2020.

There is a lot of development work to go before the maritime industry gets to that technology level. Capt Sanket is concerned that “autonomous vessels would be exposed to marine environments and operating around platforms” which means there would be less room to manoeuvre if there was some kind of failure.

He added that adoption of autonomous vessel technology would need to be done in steps, starting with controlled operations. “Remotely operated vessels would be a great advantage,” Capt Sanket added.

In the meantime, offshore support vessel operators are reducing costs through adoption of vessel monitoring technology.

MEO Middle East operations manager Ravinder Hoonjan said “oil companies were putting more focus on cutting fuel costs”. Which is why he would recommend that “vessel owners need to monitor and manage better the fuel consumption” on their ships.

Seacor Offshore senior vice president Anthony Weller said his company had invested in fuel monitoring on vessels. He said this technology and remote maintenance had made vessels and engines more efficient. “We can be competitive with more efficient engines and fuel monitoring on our vessels for our clients,” he said.

Topaz Energy & Marine has introduced digitalisation and offshore communications technology on its vessels to improve crew welfare and business operations. Topaz is connecting its fleet of up to 110 vessels to this digital platform using Orange Business Services’ Maritime Connect solution, which includes VSAT, L-band backup, onboard wifi and links to coastal cellular networks. It is also working with ABS Nautical Systems on fleet management programs.

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