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The world’s first shipping company focussing entirely on autonomous ships is being established in Norway as the shipping industry continues its push towards autonomous technology.
Shipping group Wilhelmsen and technology firm KONGSBERG, both from Norway, have joined forces to establish the new company, named Massterly, which will launch later this year offering the complete value chain for autonomous ships, from design and development, to control systems, logistics services and vessel operations.
“As a world-leading maritime nation, Norway has taken a position at the forefront in developing autonomous ships. Through the creation of the new company named Massterly, we take the next step on this journey by establishing infrastructure and services to design and operate vessels, as well as advanced logistics solutions associated with maritime autonomous operations. Massterly will reduce costs at all levels and be applicable to all companies that have a transport need,” says Thomas Wilhelmsen, Wilhelmsen group CEO.
Massterly will have land-based control centers established to monitor and operate autonomous ships in Norway and internationally.
“With a combined 360 years of experience, Massterly will benefit from KONGSBERG`s unique technological expertise and solutions, and Wilhelmsen’s world-leading experience in logistics and ship management operations. Norway’s position as a leading maritime nation also creates opportunities in the development of next-generation maritime personnel,” the companies said in a joint statement announcing the new company.
“Autonomy and remote operations are an important development for the maritime industry and Norway’s lead has been made possible as a result of close cooperation between the Norwegian maritime cluster and the Norwegian authorities. In recent years there has been rapid development driven by a significant increase in demand from customers worldwide, from the traditional maritime industry and others. When autonomous ships soon are a reality, Massterly will be crucial for digitalising the infrastructure and operations,” says Geir Håøy, President and CEO of KONGSBERG.
A key milestone in Norway’s push towards autonomous shipping came in May 2017 with the announcement of the world’s first fully-electric and autonomous container vessel. The feeder ship, to be named YARA Birkeland, will cut emissions from road transport when it starts shipping products from Yara’s Porsgrunn plant to Norway’s Brevik and Larvik ports beginning in 2019. The vessel will start off with manned operations, but could transition to autonomous, unmmanned operations as soon as 2020. KONGSBERG is a partner in that project.
“Currently, we are at the very beginning of this development, but we see and believe that there will be a significant market for these types of services in the near future. At first, short sea shipping will use autonomous ships. This also implies increased competitiveness to move transport from road to sea. The gains are increased efficiency and reduction of emissions. For Norway as a maritime nation, this will be an important contribution to reach the UN sustainable development goals,” says Wilhelmsen.
The new joint venture company will be based at offices in Lysaker, Norway, and be fully operational from August 2018.
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