Gaps in regulations and pedagogic needs - new Lighthouse pre-study

Most research on the future of smart shipping focuses on the technical challenges. But how do these new complex socio-technical systems affect man's role and responsibility? How are new international rules and laws being developed? A new pre-study from Lighthouse discusses this.

The evolution of the shipping industry toward smart vessels has now appeared over the horizon. The rapid development has created challenges for many sector stakeholders. It is, of course, about technical challenges such as "big data", development and implementation of automated systems and the relocation of personnel from the vessel to shoreside operations centers. But it is also about a completely new type of professional role, a role that requires new skills.

“The need for core competencies within navigation will remain, but this knowledge needs to be complemented by skills and knowledge to manage the increased levels of autonomy. Furthermore, futurists around the world see a need of non-technical skills such as leadership and communication in the era of the 4th industrial revolution. These topics needs to be introduced into the curriculum for training of seafarers”, says Professor Scott Mackinnon, who together with Professor Monica Lundh is the main author of the study.

With reference to current research, innovations in the transport industry and studies on how people think about how digitization and automation affect society, the researchers believe that the shipping sector must act in the long term and adopt a perspective that extends beyond the next ten years. But responsibility also falls outside the industry. When decision support systems eventually become decision making, new international rules and regulations are needed which redefine the captain's (and other stakeholders') responsibilities in the future.

“Governments and regulatory agencies, such as the IMO, will need to collaborate with actors in the shipping business to define how we should establish safety goals that are technology independent and fit-for-purpose”, Mackinnon says.

Researchers will of course also have a significant role as the industry progresses through the levels of automation.

“Many issues will arise as the complexity of this social-technical system evolves.
Using a human-centered approach to ensure that technologies and applications conceived by innovators, created by technologist, purchased by companies and deployed by end-users (the seafarer) actually function as described so safety and efficiency are improved and do not fall victim to the ironies of automation. This in turn will create trust in all segments of society”, Scott MacKinnon says.