Finland pushes for autonomous shipping

Autonomous shipping is one of the hottest issues within the maritime sector. It is apparent in the study Lighthouse previously initiated and now Finland takes the next big step towards autonomous navigation.

Image: Rolls-Royce.

The Lighthouse study states that the shipping industry is facing a paradigm shift with technology that has developed, increased precision, lower fuel consumptions, longer maintenance intervals and richer levels of data/information and better situation awareness. It is no longer a question about if, but when, autonomous merchant ships will be sailing across oceans.

Now Finland makes an effort to make the Baltic Sea an ecosystem for autonomous marine transport. The objective of the ecosystem is to create the world’s first autonomous marine transport system to the Baltic Sea. Ships will be fully autonomous in 2025.

There are almost 80 companies in the ecosystem through Finnish Marine Industries Association. The largest investors are Cargotec, Ericsson, Meyer Turku, Rolls-Royce, Tieto, and Wärtsilä. About half of the ecosystem’s funding comes from Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.

- This is an ambitious objective which can lead to new business. Tekes is willing to share risks with private sector by funding such an ecosystem. We welcome all innovators in the world to test their ideas in Finland. We have the best platforms here, comments Tekes’ senior advisor Rauli Hulkkonen.

A big challenge mentioned in the Lighthouse study is that the regulatory framework is trailing behind. Autonomous vehicles/vessels are not mentioned in International codes and conventions,  but the conclusion is that it's not necessary to wait for the International Maritime Organization, IMO, for a world ratification, since national initiatives allow autonomous vessels on their domestic waters. And as a part of the Finnish ecosystem,the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications has committed to enable testing of autonomous vessels in Finland in a flexible manner.

Take the opportunity to talk more about autonomous shipping at the Lighthouse seminar, Autonomy and safety– the next big steps, 5-6 December. 

Read more about the Lighthouse study here.

Read more about the Finnish initiative here at Tekes and the Finnish Marine Industries.