Automated vessel traffic

In shipping, autonomous vessels and automated logistics functions will change the mobility of people and goods and improve safety at sea.

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At present, automated vessel traffic is still at a relatively early stage: so far only small vessels and short distances can be operated automatically. The automation of long voyages or larger vessels is restricted by regulations, for instance. In addition to regulations, development of communication links is a key aspect of promoting automated vessel traffic, as there are still blind spots in the communication possibilities of vessels. However, the development progress is accelerating and has included trials to promote automation.

Since it is still challenging to solve problems related to communication and international legislation, it will take a long time to achieve fully autonomous vessels. Another element of delay to the progress of automation is the service life of vessels, which may be up to 40 years. Vessels built today, whose level of automation is relatively low, will be in traffic for the next few decades along with newer automated vessels.

Even if the development of automated vessel traffic is still in its infancy, Finland holds a strong ambition to act as a pioneer in the field and achieve safer and more effective shipping. The aim is that an autonomous maritime ecosystem will be effective in Finland by 2025. The Finnish Transport Agency supports these aims and has, for example, initiated an intelligent fairway trial, during which new digital services and real-time situation pictures will be tested and piloted both in vessel systems themselves and in the systems of the Vessel Traffic Services. Several fairways along the Finnish coast will be used as test platforms for the intelligent fairway tests. The experience gained from this trial will provide important information and stimulus for further automation progress.

Page updated 18.09.2017