As technology continues to advance, partial and fully autonomous smart ships will soon become a reality, with the Global Autonomous Shipping market currently valued at over six billion dollars (2020). The maritime sector is increasingly turning towards technology to improve all aspects of operations, and to date has only been held back by poor internet access. In this article, we explore what smart ships are, the benefits of technology in the maritime sector, and the connectivity option that will finally turn a concept into reality.
Digitising the Shipping Industry
We have already explored how port operations can be drastically improved with IoT connectivity. Likewise, smart ships will make use of M2M automation, IoT sensors, and artificial intelligence to streamline processes and operations on board. With the rise in port taxes and energy costs, there is an urgent need to make shipping smarter, safer, and more environmentally friendly.
Once fully realised, many aspects of operations will be supported remotely from ports, allowing vessels to move autonomously and send crew members information on tasks that need to be conducted. It is hoped that in the future, ships will be able to operate autonomously without onboard employees.
Smart ships will also aim to enable multi-layer optimisation on fuel, CO² emissions control, and energy efficiency. This comes at a time when there is a prominent, global push towards a greener and more sustainable environment. Smart ships, equipped with IoT-enabled devices such as sensors, will aid the maritime sector in contributing positively to these green goals.
Advantages of Smart Ships
The digitisation of vessels will improve many aspects of operations and communication between vessels and ports. This includes:
- AI and machine learning will support ships in running autonomously
- Route optimisation through access to real-time weather information and communication with other vessels
- The use of IoT enabled smart devices will reduce manual errors, make operations more efficient, and cut operating costs
- Using the cloud to store data will allow for better communication and collaboration on and offshore
- Access to real-time maintenance data will improve vessel uptime, whilst cutting costs for repairs by the proactive monitoring of equipment
These smart devices also contribute to:
- Optimising the amount of fuel used per journey
- Shorter turnaround time for ships in ports, with many previously manual processes becoming fully automated
- Better management of crew scheduling
- Supports meeting carbon reduction targets
However, in order to make smart ships fully functional, a constant data connection is a must. Ships often have problems with internet connectivity offshore, with many current market solutions high in cost, unreliable, and unable to offer global coverage. For smart devices, sensors, and communication from port to ship to work effectively, reliable, low-latency connectivity is required. Something that has not been possible until now.
The perfect connectivity solution
Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellites are the latest innovation within the connectivity market. The satellites, which orbit at 1200km, can offer the same reliable, high speed (10 times faster than other satellite solutions), low latency (70ms) connection to ships offshore, that it can to mainland cities. With global coverage, no matter how remote, LEO satellites would meet the port to shore requirements of smart ships, allowing the vessels to be equipped to support a more efficient, economical, and environmentally friendly future. Not least of all, reliable connectivity will also improve health and safety, and crew wellbeing, providing the necessary internet access to be able to communicate with loved ones back home, no matter how remotely located the vessel is.