Human factors in unmanned navigation

Unmanned, autonomous merchant ships might be reality before we know it. (In fact, drones are already in the air and both under and above the water in military applications). The driving force might be the need to control emissions. So called "slow-steaming" minimises energy consumption per ton-mile. However, slower voyages might be unacceptable from a societal point of view in an industry that is already having problems attracting qualified personal.

The feasibility of unmanned, autonomous merchant vessels was investigated by the EU project MUNIN (Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks). Dr. Porathe and the Maritime Human Factors group at the Department of Shipping and Marine Technology at Chalmers was responsible for the remote Shore Control Centre. In the investigated scenarios, the ships was to be manned while departing and entering port and unmanned during ocean-passage. When unmanned, the ships would be controlled by an automatic system informed by onboard sensors allowing the ship to make standard collision avoidance manoeuvres according to international regulation. The ship would be continuously monitored by a remote shore centre able to take remote control should the automatic systems fail. For the humans in the shore control centre, we found that the usual problems of automations remained, as well as a pronounced problem of keeping up adequate situation awareness through remote sensing. The big challenge for the project was to show that an unmanned system is at least as safe as a manned ship system, and to provide the shore control operators with adequate situation awareness.


Left: A schematic view of the unmanned, autonomous ship system as investigated in the MUNIN project 2013-2015. The image was produced by the project to illustrate the different system components. Right: a schematic model of humans in the unmanned ship system. As can be seen there are many humans involved although the ship itself is unmanned. And with humans involved there is a strong need to study the human factors aspect.



Left: It is probable that autonomous/remote monitoring technology first will be added to conventional ships, releaving the watchstander during ocean watches with little traffic, or during tiering night-watches. Humans would then be close by in case of failiure. Right: With a mature technology much can be gained by building drone ships without bridge and accomodation. (Image by Rolls Royce.)



The Shore Control Centre








Burmeister, Hans-Christoph, Bruhn, Wilko, Rodseth, Jan Ornulf, Porathe, Thomas. (2015) Autonomous Unmanned Merchant Vessel and its Contribution towards the e-Navigation Implementation: The MUNIN Perspective. International Journal of e-Navigation and Maritime Economy, Vol. 1, pp 1-13. DOI:10.1016/j.enavi.2014.12.002

Porathe, Thomas. (2014). Remote Monitoring and Control of Unmanned Vessels – The MUNIN Shore Control Centre. In V. Bertram (Ed.), Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Computer Applications and Information Technology in the Maritime Industries (COMPIT ‘14), 12-14 May 2014 in Redworth, UK . Hamburg, Technische Universität Hamburg- Harburg, 2014

Porathe, T., Prison, J., & Man, Y. (2014). Situation Awareness in Remote Control Centres for Unmanned Ships. Proceedings of Human Factors in Shjip Design and Operastion, 26-27 February 2014, Royal Institute of Naval Architects: London.

Burmeister, Hans-Christoph, Bruhn, Wilko, Rodseth, Jan Ornulf, Porathe, Thomas. (2014) Can unmanned ships improve navigational safety? In the Proceedings of the Transport Research Arena, TRA 2014, 14 - 17th April 2014, Paris, France Paris, 2014

Rodseth, Jan Ornulf., Porathe, Thomas; Burmeister, Hans-Christoph. (2013) Communication Architecture for an Unmanned Merchant Ship. In the Proceedings of the OCEANS 2013 conference - Bergen, IEEE. DOI: 10.1109/OCEANS-Bergen.2013.6608075




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