BPA launches Autonomous Shipping in Ports Network

Container ship in export and import. International shipping cargo. Aerial view

The British Ports Association (BPA) has launched a new initiative exploring the implications of autonomous shipping for UK ports, including a call for evidence from interested parties.

As part of the initiative the BPA is creating a new Autonomous Shipping in Ports Network and on 24 August is opened a call for evidence from the wider maritime community on what ports should consider to prepare for receiving autonomous ships in the future.

Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) involves the automation of vessel and onboard processes which could alter how ports and ships interface with each other.

Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive, BPA said, “The prospect of seeing autonomous ships in UK ports is definitely on the horizon but there will be much to do to prepare ourselves. This includes the consideration for port and marine operations, regulatory frameworks, infrastructure and receptions facilities, land to vessel communications and vessel safety.”

He noted that while the industry is still at the early stages work is already taking place across the maritime sector and many UK ports are considering what they should do to develop their ports and recruit the next generation.

“This will be an ongoing initiative for the BPA but initially we are inviting evidence from a cross section of maritime sector organisations. This will be in relation to issues that they see specific in to ports and harbours moving forward into autonomous maritime operations. It will also help us to support and participate in various government initiatives in the UK such as Maritime 2050, the work of the Maritime Skills Commission and other innovation, sustainability and infrastructure projects,” he said.

In terms of the call for evidence, the BPA is asking interested parties to feed in information on topics including autonomous shipping and the land-sea interface, the required digital and physical infrastructure needed, and what autonomous vessels might mean for people at ports.

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