ABB – Autonomous Vessel Operations

Liza Chua Abb Snic Nbas

In light of the upcoming SNIC, we spoke to Dr. Liza Chua, from ABB. She gave us insight in how important autonomous vessel operations will be in the near future.

Why did you choose to enter the maritime industry?

he Maritime industry is a vital part of the global economy, responsible for carrying close to 90% of the world’s trade, and being a part of this industry gives a huge sense of purpose. The general impression of maritime is that it is conventional, but we are in fact evolving rapidly with advancements in technologies such as AI, edge computing and automation – all of these technologies are no longer in a conceptual stage but they are existing in many parts of the world. Over the years, the industry is also paving the way for ethical practices, sustainability efforts and championing environmental initiatives. All of which I am proud to say that I am an integral part of.

The maritime industry also offers a unique working environment – Some days are spent behind a desk in the office, some are working onboard a vessel in overalls whereas some are spent in our Marine Automation Center in ABB, Singapore.


What is so special about autonomous vessel operations?

When we think autonomous, we tend to think of cars but I hope that the mindset shifts towards vessels in the coming years. Autonomous technologies can complement human weakness with the strengths of automation, providing immerse potential to transform the maritime industry to improve the safety of ship operations. For example, conventional task performed by Officer of the Watch (OOW) involves manual data fusion of observations of the human lookout and the observations from other sensors and data sources to generate an understanding of the environment around the vessel. However, there can be situations where human capabilities challenged, such as weather, long working hours, congested situations etc. ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot Vision automates these tasks by interfacing with traditional sensors, charts, camera technology and combining it with AI-powered computer vision to create a comprehensive picture of the situation continuously and objectively, without forgetting or getting tired.

What are some of the benefits of autonomous vessels?

Autonomous technologies such as the ABB’s Marine Pilot solutions can enhance safety and efficiency in operations by allowing the crew to focus on the overall situation rather than on performing specific maneuvers, which is particularly important in congested shipping hubs. For example, in complex situations with a lot of traffic nearby, some of which can only be detected by human crew today, autonomous technology can support human to identify and track the targets around the vessel surroundings using computer vision and sensor fusion, and automatically perform risk assessment and provide decision-making support for collision avoidance even in situations where one or more objects is unnoticed by the human crew. In addition, optimized maneuvering helps to prevent accidents, enhance productivity and reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

It is important to highlight that the intent of autonomous technology is to combine the strengths of human and machines to achieve safer, greener and more efficient operations.


Is Singapore’s maritime industry ready for autonomous technology?

Yes, I strongly believe so. As part of Singapore Maritime R&D Roadmap 2030, “Smart Fleet Operations & Autonomous Vessels” is one of the strategic research thrusts that the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) had outlined.

Earlier this year, together with Keppel Offshore & Marine, ABB successfully completed sea trials that verified the autonomous collision avoidance capabilities of ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot technology. The vessel was already distinguished itself as the world’s first vessel to secure the ABS Remote-Control Navigation Notation, following initial remote operation trials at the Port of Singapore in April 2021. Furthermore, autonomous technology can be applied to a variety of vessel types including wind turbine installation vessels, cruise ships and ferries.


Dr. Liza Chua will be speaking at SNIC 2022

On the 18 November, we look forward to listening to Liza on how autonomous technology complements humans to improve both safety and efficiency.