While the advent of science and technology showed huge development to propel man’s economic and education strata, including sea navigation, the advent is also decking out a hurting effect on the employment of seafarers deployed and currently working on ships, both cargo and passengers worldwide, as automaton impact starts being felt in Europe today.
“It is known to the maritime world that automation in sea navigation is already in place, to which we must be prepared,” said VAdm. Eduardo Ma. R. Santos AFP (ret.), president of Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP)-PTGWO-ITF, during the 120th maritime forum of the Philippines’ Maritime League held last March 31, 2017 at the academy’s Center for Advanced Maritime Studies (CAMS) at Kamaya Point, Alas-asin, Mariviles, Bataan.
“Within the next 10 to 15 years, after full automation, reduction in the deployment of seafarers would be felt, and we see a big reduction on demand in the number of crew.. Time may come thereafter, that seafarers would not be needed to man ships,” as remote control or autonomous ships would be in place by then.” Santos said.
During the forum, Admiral Santos tasked Engr. Gerardo Ramon S. Galang, manager of MAAP’s Management Information and Instructional Technology Department (MIITD) to make a presentation on mechanics of operating autonomous ships. According to Galang, next generation modular systems and communications technology “will enable wireless monitoring and control functions both on and off board, that includes advanced decision support systems to autonomous control.”
The autonomy levels have been defined by the Lloyd’s Registry.
He said that for the remote control or autonomous ships to function, the operator “must” have the knowledge on Shore-based decision support systems; Shore control center operations; Cyberspace and Cybersecurity; Modern control systems (uprocessor-based Controller, PLC, DCS, SMART transmitters, Fieldbus technology); and Robotics and mechatronics.
Galang stressed that there is a need to revise maritime courses that would be relevant to skills essential autonomous-classed vessels; as well as maritime electricity courses that o would be relevant to mechanisms, and precision movements of robots.
According to the MAAP expert, course revisions have been implemented since November, 2016, and the introduction of a Robotics and Autonomous Ships Course will be implemented by June this year (2017), while major Robotics and Autonomous Ships operations will be implemented by June, 2018. Within the next 10 to 15 years, he said, remote control operations of vessels for coastal voyages would be in place in Europe. Galang pointed out there is a need for “proper” maritime education and training, for without it, rapid de-skilling of maritime officers and crew will occur, so “we must produce graduates who will remain competent in the technologies adopted by the industry, stressing it’s about time for IMO (Inernational Maiime Organization) to change regulations attuned to the new automation advent. He however, said, autonomous ships do not necessarily mean zero seafarers, but probably reduced crew.