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UK Government Begins Autonomous Shipping Project

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The UK government has signed a partnership with L3 ASV, an industry leading supplier of Unmanned and Autonomous Marine Systems, to research the potential of autonomous navigation in ships.

According to a statement, L3 ASV will conduct a study with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO), focusing on the future of marine navigational data and charts.

The project is being funded by the Department for Transport’s Transport Technology Research Innovation Grant (T-TRIG).

Its main aim is to promote early-stage science, engineering or technology innovations with the potential to advance the UK’s transport system.

Furthermore, it will also look to identify the technical data requirements to enable the development of a Smart Chart system, which will then provide information to autonomous vessels to enable safer navigation.

Dan Hook, Senior Director of Business Development at L3 ASV, commented: “Current navigational data and charts have been developed over centuries to be read and interpreted by humans.

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“Today, and over the coming decade, more and more marine vessels will be operating unmanned, and the charts will be read by computers”.

Shipping Minister Nusrat Ghani MP had this to say: “As we move through the 21st century, technology will continue to transform the U.K.’s world-leading maritime sector.

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“Innovations such as Smart Charts pave the way for automation and Smart Shipping, and we are keen to support British companies making the most of new technologies, giving our vibrant sector a competitive edge.

“Technology and innovation are a key part of our Maritime 2050 initiative, which will set a vision for the growth and success of our maritime sector over the next 30 years.”

Tim Wilkes, Product Manager for the MCA, said: “Understanding the data requirements of autonomous vessels is going to be hugely important for the MCA if we are to continue to ensure the safety of navigation in U.K. waters to save lives and combat pollution.

“This project will help us identify some of the regulatory issues that accompany a shift to smart and autonomous shipping, and will highlight how the MCA can use its wealth of bathymetric and ship movement data to support this growing industry.”

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