ABS Joins Alliance Developing Unmanned Cargo Ship

A conceptual design by Rolls-Royce of a 1,000 TEU unmanned feeder vessel. Image: Rolls-Royce

The American Bureau of Shipping has joined a China-led alliance whose goal is to develop and deliver an unmanned, autonomous cargo ship by the end of 2021.

ABS, a leading classification society to the maritime and offshore industry, announced Wednesday it will become a member of the Unmanned Cargo Ship Development Alliance to work with industry partners, including class organizations, shipyards, equipment manufacturers and designers, to advance autonomous shipping.

Launched in Shanghai in June, the Unmanned Cargo Ship Development Alliance, chaired by the Chinese holding company HNA Technology Group Co, was formed with nine members, including CCS, China Ship Research & Development Institute, Shanghai Marine Diesel Engine Research Institute, Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co., Marine Design Research Institute of China (MARIC), Rolls-Royce, and Wartsila. The alliance has set the goal of delivering an unmanned cargo ship by October 2021.

Launch of the alliance comes as more and more companies in the shipping industry turn towards autonomous technologies to incorporate into areas of their businesses.

“Increased digitization, advanced technologies and new levels of connectivity are changing the way the maritime industry operates,” says ABS Greater China Division President Eric Kleess. “In the coming years, we will see significant changes in the way ships are designed and built, with a strong drive to develop autonomous vessels especially in China. As a key member of this alliance, ABS is aligned closely with industry to support safer and more sustainable maritime operations. ”

ABS said the design of the unmanned vessel will integrate features of independent decision-making, autonomous navigation, environmental perception and remote control.

“Through this collaborative effort, we will apply the latest technologies to develop a new autonomous ship concept,” says HNA Technology Group Vice Chairman Li Weijian. “The newly formed alliance is advancing new innovations in ship design and operations, and also working to promote the safe adoption of these assets in the market.”