When writing this, I just came back to hotel from ADIPEC exhibition in Abu Dhabi.
It was a huge show, where just the numbers of the exhibition halls was so high, that it forces you to choose.
For me the biggest shock in the exhibition was the dancing robot, which was singing and dancing “Wonderful World”
by Louis Armstrong. My first thought immediately was if he could also command a ship while doing that? Are we actually that close to the sci-fi stories?
History with human errors
With this robot in my mind, I still need to look back in the history of the sea going and ship building. Development in this industry has been guided by the errors made by human beings. Even the whole classification system of ships is a result of
these mis-fortunes. So how can we continue from that, if human error is no longer there? Will era of robot errors
start from where we did stop with human errors or shall first strip be down some unnecessary rules and requirements
which can be written into the algorithm of the artificial control logic? Then we sit and wait for the robotic errors to
start happening and re-live the development period of robotic rules?
Makes no sense. Somebody wrote that when you offer your services, you are not just selling 30 minutes of your time. You sell your whole experience to do the job in 30 minutes. Same applies to collective experience that has gathered into the rules and regulations.
Could we somehow do as Hannah Montana did in old Disney show? Take the best out of both worlds!
Correct level of automatization
In my mind the robot is needed some day and it will come. Regardless if we wanted him/her/it to come or not.
However I would hesitate to let it do such tasks as operational control tasks of the ship. Just because from the perspective of
engineering, I have experience that collective decisions are often (or always) compromises. Any kind of artificial intelligent inside the head of robot will be therefore an average and as such the scale will not cover sufficiently independent operation control. Captains make decisions which are extreme or irrelevant technically considering. Correct target level of auto-functions is then for assisting him.
Here on this level, the industry is already offering several solutions and more is coming nearly daily to the market. Tools assisting on the energy efficiency are very effective, same applies to bridge control or safety applications. Reduced paper work – for example – lets more time to focus on ships commanding. This is good improvement on safety as such.
I believe the correct development path would be now to make these tools much more common, let them mature and become as a part of natural day in captain’s job. These could be made common by means of forcing them common. Or creating benefits from using the operational improvement tools. I say it without going around: It is kind of crime against the environment, that this has not yet happened. Wider collective experience of using guiding tools will lead into the best consumption or safety outcome and of course meaningful savings in the financial and environmental meters.
Somebody in the former French ferry company once said that “Advising system is made to control how Captain is performing. We could even apply a pressure sensor in his … to see that he/she is participating sufficiently to the operations.” Well, I hope he has gotten over this feeling and understand that Captain is allowed to be human, with his mistakes and all. Let’s just take out unnecessary consumption and learn to better. Aye-Aye Captain! Supporting you since last millenium.