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Our 3-steps Roadmap

The goal of the a‑Navigation project is to implement legal and technical conditions for the widespread operation of MASS (maritime autonomous surface ships) by consumers.

Although autonomous shipping is becoming increasingly popular and much of the technology is already in place, we have yet to achieve global adoption of this kind of operations. The lack of a clear long-term approach to autonomous shipping has been the main obstacle to the use of MASS. Also, it has been the ground for the false perception that autonomous ships would be an uncontrollable and unpredictable new factor in the historically established and understood practice of shipping. So, this is something that we, at MARINET and along with our partners, have attempted to address through our a‑Navigation project.

Our planned roadmap is one that offers simple and gradual practical first steps that supposes three stages of autonomous shipping development: coexistence, transition, and prominence.

  • At the Coexistence stage, automatic and remotely controlled vessels shall be operated along with the ongoing use of traditionally crewed vessels within the framework of the existing regulation. The main driver of a‑Navigation use at this stage is improving safety; that is, to reduce the impact of the human factor while simultaneously increasing control over the work of the crew on board by shipping companies. At the same time, automation of routine functions and better situational awareness and control will reduce the burden on crewmembers and the required manning on board vessels. The main barrier at this stage is the coexistence of MASS with traditional ships, and we have addressed this by using the developed principle of Complete Functional Equivalence (CFE).
  • At the Transition stage, the expansion of MASS numbers and operation area will lead to the emergence of lines and entire water areas where mainly autonomous ships will be used, allowing for certain water areas and traffic separation systems to naturally be designated as only or mainly for autonomous ships. It will provide further opportunities to transfer functions from human to computing systems and remove some of the current regulation requirements. The reduction of these requirements together with economies of scale will lead to further operation cost reductions for MASS. Transition would also spur the creation of new specific forms of organisation, such as control centres or services for MASS based on e-Navigation, as well as the adoption of special regulations for MASS reflecting the capabilities and specifics of a‑Navigation computer systems.
  • At the Prominence stage, MASS operation will be expanded and will cover all major transport routes globally with the model and regulation of maritime transport as MASS-focused. Since transportation by MASS will be cheaper and safer, older ships will naturally move to niches where MASS use is likely to be impossible or economically unprofitable. These may include areas with a small volume of traffic, or regions with extremely unpredictable weather and climatic conditions. The overwhelming majority of seafarers will work either in navigation control centres or in emergency teams, which will also radically change the quality of working conditions and make traditionally crewed ships an exception.