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Successful MASS adoption requires people and skills

A marriage between seafarers and skillsets will make a smooth technology transition

Maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) will be a norm in the industry soon. However, its performance is dependent on both crew and technical skills. In essence, having strong technical knowledge has to be supplemented by a collaborative team. This view was highlighted by experts from the UK-based Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST).

Automation and technology are tools
Putting this in perspective: when the industry gets to post-pandemic period, new technologies will be a norm offering more opportunities as well as challenges. Gordon Meadow, CMarTech FIMarEST, Chair of Marine Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) Special Interest Group, explained: “The future of MASS is all about seafarers and the needs of the maritime workforce as the industry moves forward. New technologies bring both opportunities and challenges, and we need to separate hype from the real drivers of a technology’s commercial promise while prepping for the new era. Automation and technology adoption should be used as a tool in achieving our goals, not as the goal.”

Meadow added, “Definitions for autonomous and remote vessels need to be clarified. An uncrewed or unmanned vessel is by definition a vessel. The same roles will be needed as on a crewed vessel, albeit managed differently. Uncrewed vessel operators must have an understanding of the wider maritime world.”

Another emphasised aspect is the software – an important component. Meadow highlighted, “To only approve a process would be a weak link in the chain. Complex software interactions and reversion testing should also be part of the release process. Software management is essential in a similar way to management of physical vessel characteristics.” Essentially, the tool must be certified reliable across the board for execution before official release.

Lastly, it is important that the operators are equipped with skillsets fitting to a T.  A remote control centre involves a broad range of capabilities, specific functions and responsibilities. They need to be defined in terms of what constitutes remote operations, and expectations of operators considering each individual role. In conclusion, good integration between seafarers and skillsets will facilitate smooth transition to automation; neither is independent of each other. Separating them will make technology look like a hindrance than a tool.


Crewing Online News Team
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