Port opportunities from autonomous shipping

Port serving autonomous vessels such as the YARA Birkeland (pictured) are expected to enter into full autonomous operations from 2020 Photo: Kongsberg Port serving autonomous vessels such as the YARA Birkeland (pictured) are expected to enter into full autonomous operations from 2020 Photo: Kongsberg
Industry Database

A new report looks into the opportunities for ports from autonomous shipping and makes a number of recommendations for ports interested in leading in this fast-emerging area.

Coastal shipping could be one of the first parts of the UK maritime sector to embrace autonomous shipping and through the report, the British Ports Association (BPA) is encouraging ports to consider the implications on their operations.

“Autonomous ships could soon be a more common feature of domestic and global trade. UK ports have the chance to grasp the opportunity to lead the world in accommodating this change,” said Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the BPA.

"This development could initially be in the short sea coastal shipping sector and the UK’s wide selection of ports will have an important role to play when this takes off in British waters,”

Recommendations

The report, which has been produced as part of the BPA's Port Futures initiative and is authored by Setfords Solicitors, also gives recommendations to government regarding reviewing UK legislation and regulations to ensure they are up to date and flexible to accommodate new technological opportunities.

Published at the beginning of ‘Maritime UK Week’, the report sets out the opportunities for UK ports in preparing for new Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) and the BPA will be sending it to the UK’s Department for Transport for consideration as part of its Maritime 2050 initiative.

The report explains some of the future challenges the industry will face in terms of servicing MASS ships, including the areas of operations and management, safety, security, cyber security and breakdowns in communication systems. There will also be alterations needed to quays for berthing.

Opportunities for ports meanwhile could be felt in terms of increased port jobs in the port services industry and possible re-assessment of costs and payment for this new market, possibly having an impact on harbour dues and other commercial agreements.

The report also makes some recommendations for harbour authorities, including reviewing harbour byelaws to check they could accommodate MASS.

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