Tuesday, November 30, 2021

As Autonomous Vessels Begin to Gain a Foothold in the World of Maritime Transport

So Just Who IS Driving That Thing?
Shipping News Feature
NORWAY – WORLDWIDE – We have all grown blasé from watching films, particularly modern war movies, of drones both big and small, being controlled from thousands of miles away. How often however do you stop to think who is driving that thing and where did they learn the trade? Flying something in the park perhaps?

As time passes we are seeing ever more new autonomous creations being tested or even brought into service, on our streets, in the air and of course, on the sea, where the growing number of stories here bear testament of an industry which is developing at an enormous rate. Intelligent software systems and enhanced ship-to-shore-connectivity have laid the groundwork for the growth of remote solutions and autonomy in shipping. Unmanned vessels are already expected to begin regular operations in the near future.

Ensuring that these vessels operate at an equivalent level of safety is essential to building confidence and realising the potential of these technologies. However, despite the technical solutions being in place, competence requirements for those monitoring, supporting and/or controlling these ships have not been defined as yet.

Now one classification society has introduced its own competence standard for vessel remote control centre operators (RCCO) and claim it as a world first. DNV says its new standard is supported by a new recommended practice that offers a certification scheme for RCCOs. Together, they are intended to provide a framework for training, assessing, and certifying personnel working in remote-control centres that support or manage operations at sea.

The new DNV competence standard for remote control centre operators (DNV-ST-0324) and the supporting recommended practice (DNV-RP-0323) change this. They were developed in collaboration with Kongsberg Maritime, Wilhelmsen, as well as the University of South-Eastern Norway, and the Norwegian Maritime Authority. Torsten Schröder, SeaSkill™ Service Manager, Competence & Learning at DNV Maritime, observes:

“Making sure that shore-based staff are prepared for autonomous, remote-controlled or remotely supported operations at sea is a big challenge. Because when it comes the wider application of these technologies, trust in the systems, and the people managing these operations is paramount. This is why we are so pleased to have developed the RP with expert partners from across the industry. Having a wide range of expertise was essential to devising a uniform and controlled approach to the training, assessment and certification of RCCOs.”

The recommended practice, DNV-RP-0323, gives guidance to centres conducting examinations of remote-control centre operators and issuing personnel certificates as a certification body. It also covers the competence building process for candidates before undertaking an RCCO examination, for example learning programmes and practice sessions in the centres themselves.

The DNV SeaSkill™ standard ST-0324 provides a foundation for the entire process. It lists the required competencies for the operation of autonomous or remotely controlled and/or supported ships. It also covers competency in:

  • Emergency handling and resource management within a remote control centre (RCC)
  • Communication with 3rd parties on behalf of the ship under remote-control
  • Man-machine interaction

RCCO certificates can be registered in an existing DNV online database, making it possible for interested parties to verify qualifications and validity of an RCCO certificate.To ensure transparency in this emerging field and build trust among users and the public, examination centres, certification bodies, as well as the training centres, their RCC simulators and learning programmes for RCCOs can also be certified by DNV.