Ships already carry a vast amount of process-based automation similar to that found in normal factories in the form of various kinds of warnings and functions that enable adjusting equipment. Various subsystems for energy production, propulsion generation, and steering already contain a substantial amount of more sophisticated automation. Today, the work of the crew responsible for steering modern ships at sea largely consists of monitoring instruments. In other words, much of the technology for automating ships already exists, but the systems have not been combined onto a single platform, and not all of the potential of automation has been harnessed for various reasons.
Domestic transport in Finland lends itself well to different kinds of confined automation experiments. The Finnish Transport Safety Agency and the Ministry of Transport and Communications want to enable trials of autonomous and automated vessels in Finland’s territorial waters and, where possible, also in international waters.
Maritime automation in both ship steering and engineering systems has been commonplace for a long time, and several experiments are now in progress around the world to develop remote-controlled or autonomous ships. Finland has also launched an important project in this field: The project is called the AAWA Initiative, and it is coordinated by Rolls-Royce with support from various parties, including the Finnish Transport Safety Agency. The Finnish Transport Safety Agency is creating conditions for these kinds of projects within the constraints of national legislation and will also promote similar development in the IMO in the future.
Automated transport requires considerably more extensive sharing of information than what is the case at present. Digital data have been a key factor of production in the work of maritime authorities for several years, and it has made it possible to build cooperation and partnerships not only between different authorities but also across sectors and national borders. The EU is currently in the process of charting a new course for development, which at the moment involves building a shared environment for information exchange in the maritime sector, which would network all official data between different operators. Maritime businesses have also expressed interest in contributing to this development work.
Another exciting development is the Digital Baltic Sea initiative of the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications and maritime businesses, which explores the possibility of building a cloud for the Baltic Sea Region, which would allow both the authorities and the maritime industry to share information to improve business opportunities and accelerate new business.
For example, domestic projects for developing common information sharing environments (CISE) for the maritime sector can be used to accelerate the exploitation of digitalisation and in opening up new business opportunities for Finnish operators.
Various kinds of cyber threats are a new security challenge that affects all forms of transport and all sectors of society. The IMO is working globally to combat cyber threats in the maritime sector, focusing on the protection of specialist maritime systems and data. Finland contributes actively to this work, and we want to play a central role in increasing cyber security, robotisation, and automation in the maritime sector.
The objective of the AAWA Initiative is to lead the way in bringing about a worldwide shift by developing solutions for intelligent next-generation maritime operations. The project team consists of five industrial partners (Rolls-Royce, DNV GL, Napa, Deltamarin, and Inmarsat) and five research partners (Tampere University of Technology, University of Turku, Aalto University, Åbo Akademi University, and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland). The work covers both remote-controlled and fully autonomous solutions for ship navigation, machinery, and other on-board systems. In addition to purely technical development work, the approach also encompasses examining different priorities, such as safety, financial considerations, and legislative issues. Various kinds of sophisticated solutions are being trialled and used in different forms of transport around the world, and this emerging shift is about to begin a new era in maritime operations as well. This shift will also be an excellent opportunity for the Finnish maritime industry to create a completely new business opportunity and to become the leading intelligent maritime operations cluster in the world.
The trend of urbanisation, the need for new kinds of mobility, and also environmental reasons are forcing us to develop ever-faster, more flexible and environmentally friendly transport services. The change is being enabled by developments such as digitalisation and automation. Technological development work is not enough by itself, however, and creative cooperation with both the maritime industry and ICT businesses, research organisations, the authorities, local governments, and users of mobility services is also needed. The Smart City Ferries project pools together these parties and creates an open platform for innovating smarter urban water transport.
Read more about the project on the aboamare.fi website.
Finland is launching an extensive unmanned maritime transport development project. The project aims to build the world’s first unmanned maritime products, services, and vivid ecosystem for the Baltic Sea Region by 2025.
The Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Finnish Transport Safety Agency are promoting the project, for example, by striving to identify suitable test areas for unmanned vessels and by enabling flexible testing. The project team consists of almost 60 businesses, and it is part of the Arctic Seas programme of Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation. The first stage is to experiment with unmanned cargo vessels.