Autonomous Ships: Nautical Traffic in Ports



Yang Zhou and Xavier Bellsolà Olba, Delft University of Technology


Editor's note: This paper proved to be one of our top contributions to issue 78. As well as being well-constructed and a smooth read, the paper is supremely interesting as it looks into autonomous ships from a operational logistic perspective, taking into account the changes we will likely see, and how we will transition to a new methodology of ship berthing in the autonomous age. 

With ongoing trade globalization, waterborne cargo transportation has notably grown in recent years. Due to the growth in ship sizes, with lower manoeuvrability, and higher flows, the safety in these confined areas needs to be guaranteed. Nautical traffic operations in ports are now impacted by more data availability and the disruption of automation processes, and port stakeholders need to adapt to these changes.

The implementation of automatic identification systems (AIS) in vessels was a turning point in the evolution of nautical traffic in information acquisition. Nowadays, nautical traffic in ports is mainly organized by VTS operators from port authorities, where the AIS information of each ship is known by the other ships. Previously, VTS operators were in charge of guiding incoming and outgoing ships sailing into ports, such operations are performed in a manual way based on operator knowledge. The drawbacks in such expert knowledge-based operation are the possible human errors or the non-optimal on the spot decisions…

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