Do We Need More Of The Realistic And Less Of The Futuristic?

Rolls Royce recently release a video visualisation of  land-based control centres for unmanned ships. We ask if this is actually counter-productive to encouraging widespread acceptance by the mass maritime market?

The video has a superbly futuristic feel to it with personnel using interactive smart screens, voice recognition systems, holograms and deploying of surveillance drones.

Much as it is an entertaining watch, could this futuristic portrayal create more negativity than positivity?

We see a Star Trek style ship control room and wry exchanges with computers telling operators to have a cup of tea.

A technical expert comes in plucking holographic representations of parts of the vessel engine and casually handling them as he chats to his colleagues about what to do.

It seems all just a bit too ‘sci-fi’ and therein perhaps lies the problem. By showing it in this way, do we leave the whole concept too open to easy criticism?

It can obscure the fact that there are some excellent ideas, deeply though-out processes and highly practical solutions contained in the visualisation.

The visualisation shows options for the safe control of autonomous vessels that are not beyond the realms of possibility by any means.

Maersk Tankers are already testing drones as a method of dropping supplies to vessels, so deploying them to see what a problem is with a vessel seems a next logical step.

We have companies such as Carnival setting up advanced simulation environments for training and integrated ship and shore management.

Right now we are drawing perhaps 5% of the technical and operational data available from our vessels. Integrate the further 95% and we have visibility of virtually every aspect of a vessel.

In essence, autonomous or semi-autonomous vessels are not far off a technical possibility, we just need to join the dots.

It is attitudes to integrated ship and shore management that have perhaps further to go.

So when we discuss this, let’s do it in a realistic manner with reference to the current operations of every ship owner, operator and manager today.

In this way we can take the industry along on the journey and make the future a reality.

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