France demonstrates its autonomous shipping prowess

Paris-headquartered class society Bureau Veritas and the French flag have developed a new compliance approach for SeaOwl’s remote operations known as ROSS, which stands for Remotely Operated Services at Sea.

Demonstrations were carried out last week on a SeaOwl vessel, the retrofitted supply ship VN Rebel located off Toulon and successfully operated from Paris.

The remote vessel was sailing under the French flag – in compliance with IMO requirements for trials of autonomous ships.

Compliance was enabled thanks to a constant dialogue between the operator SeaOwl, Bureau Veritas and the French maritime authorities.

The Paris captain was able to take and maintain command of the VN Rebel navigating off the French Mediterranean port of Toulon with full remote control of the ship.

The VN Rebel was sailing with the required authorisations from the French flag ensuring compliance with the IMO resolution for the trial of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS). This is the very first time that this resolution has been applied in France to a ship of this size.

The trial addressed the resilience of the communications link provided by Marlink, which is also a partner in the project, the remote operation of watch-keeping, and communications functions. The analysis also included the corresponding remote operations of the machinery including engine, dynamic positioning and the cybersecurity of the system.

During the test, in addition to proving the availability of remote navigation functions, the SeaOwl crew also demonstrated responses to several scenarios including a weather incident, resulting in the loss of communications connectivity, and a cybersecurity attack with the detection of a GPS blurring.

The next steps for SeaOwl are to install its ROSS concept on newbuildings designed to provide services to offshore platforms.

Jean-Baptiste Gillet, director of advanced services for Bureau Veritas, commented: “One of the challenges for would-be MASS operators and flag administrations has been to find a way to provide a compliance pathway and ensure confidence in both regulator and the regulated. The success of the ROSS project is full of promise as to the quality of future relations between actors and authorities for future developments.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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