The project MUNIN – Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks – is a collaborative research project, co-funded by the European Commissions under its Seventh Framework Programme. MUNIN aims to develop and verify a concept for an autonomous ship, which is defined as a vessel primarily guided by automated on-board decision systems but controlled by a remote operator in a shore side control station.
Maritime transport within the EU faces challenges such as significant increases in transport volumes, growing environmental requirements and a shortage of seafarers in the future. The concept of the autonomous ship brings along the potential to overcome these challenges. It allows for more efficient and competitive ship operation and increases in the environmental performance of vessels. Furthermore the shore based approach offers “seafaring” the possibility to become more socially sustainable by reducing the time seafarers spend away from their families.
Within MUNIN a consortium of eight partners led by Fraunhofer CML with scientific and industrial background will reflect upon operational, technical and legal aspects in connection with the vision of an autonomous ship. Solutions for e.g. an autonomous bridge, an autonomous engine room, a shore side operation center and the communication architecture linking vessel and a shore operator will be developed and verified. Besides this long term goal of an autonomous ship MUNIN’s results will also provide efficiency, safety and sustainability advantages for existing vessels in short term. This includes e.g. environmental optimization, new maintenance and operational concepts as well as improved bridge applications.
Slower sailing speeds become economicallyviable if crew costs can be reduced at thesame time. Reduced speeds result in longervoyage times which incur increased chartercosts. For manned vessels, crew costs pertrip also rise and at some point offset thesavings made by the lower consumptionof fuel. If staff costs can be reduced by theintroduction of unmanned ships this willhelp to minimize total trip costs by the useof a slower sailing speed.
Seagoing professions are increasinglyperceived as unattractive these days.Factors such as long and monotonoussea passages, short and busy port staysand lengthy periods away from thesocial environment at home have causeda shortage of seagoing personnel. Theconcept of autonomous vessels transfersthe demanding and interesting tasks fromship to shore. It means that mariners cancontrol and monitor vessels remotely whileashore and still enjoy their normal sociallife on land
Slow steaming is a key factor in making maritime transport more environmentally- friendly. Autonomous vessels sidestep the inherent vicious circle of slow steaming, as the concept enables significant speed reductions without the need for additional crew. Autonomous shipping therefore enhances the attractiveness of slow steaming and the lower fuel consumption results in reduced exhaust emissions, such as carbon dioxide.
How it works
Autonomy always means more uncertaintyin terms of how an operation is performed.This uncertainty needs to be limited toreduce the required complexity of thesensor and control systems.
MUNIN is therefore not designed for anunmanned voyage from berth to berth, butfor unmanned deep sea transport, e.g., frompilot point to pilot point. Approaching andberthing is still intended to be done by aconventional crew on board.
This kind of operation requires fournew modes: “autonomous operation”,”autonomous problem-solving”, “remote”and “fail-to-safe”. While the latter ensuresthat damage is avoided even in the case ofan emergency, the “remote” option enablesmariners ashore to interact with the vesselat all times.
However, in normal operational modeduring deep sea transport, the preferredmodes are “autonomous operation” and”autonomous problem-solving”, where theship performs repetitive tasks itself and isonly monitored by the mariners ashore.
More information may be found in project’s brochure
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