Rolls-Royce has appointed a team of former seafarers to provide practical advice on the safe remote operation of ships.
The team members – two navigating officers, an engineer officer and a marine pilot – are based at the company's Remote Operating Centre in Finland, providing insights based on their experience, with the focus on the human-machine interface.
'We can really help redefine the way ships are operated; how whole tasks can be carried out ashore, compared to how they are currently done onboard,' says Anton Westerlund, a chief officer with a decade of seagoing experience. 'It's about introducing totally new systems and user interfaces for navigators, engineers and captains, and recreating the work processes around them.'
Kevin Daffey, the company's director of marine engineering and technology, adds: 'The rationale of bringing in seafarers to help develop ROCs is that we can design the right interface between the human and the machine – and that interaction becomes really important. Designers can engineer functional interfaces, but you need the enduser to explain how best to utilise that technology; to explain how it fits into the actual operation of a vessel.'
He says the future will see more and more operational work moving ashore. ' As an example, instead of every ship having a highly trained chief engineer onboard, why don't we have one or two of them shoreside, working in a shift pattern and being able to go home to their families every day, and providing expertise and guidance to those less well-trained crews onboard several ships?'
Team member Anu Peipo, a former second officer and DP operator on tankers and offshore vessels, believes the development of new ways of running vessels will be good for seafarers. 'The remote operation of ships will undoubtedly be more attractive to younger people considering a career in the maritime industry,' she adds. 'Introducing this way of operating ships remotely will make this industry much more appealing, more interesting.'