Mariner's role still unknown as autonomous shipping gains speed
Professional Mariner|December - January2021
Mariners’ role still unknown as autonomous shipping gains speed
Capt. Marc Deglinnocenti

At the behest of Professional Mariner and many other interested parties within and outside of the maritime industry, I’ve been asking many questions about maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) relating to safety, security, and future maritime careers. I have sought answers from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd), and sources in the private sector. I have only been moderately successful due to the simple fact that the above-named agencies and others don’t have a lot of answers to give.

In fairness to most of them, I must say that they are at least seeking many of the same answers that I am. Many of them are currently running their own MASS studies or are participating in others, some of which include MASS test zones known as marine autonomy research sites (MARS). I did manage to get some answers at the last Ship Operations Cooperative Program (SOCP) webinar, at which I have been a panel speaker several times in the past. The guest speaker at the Sept. 17 session was Lt. Matthew Meacham of the Coast Guard’s Office of Design and Engineering Standards, who identified a MARS zone on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula in Lake Superior that is of great interest to the service.

Development of this particular zone originated at Michigan Technological University. The school operates the Great Lakes Research Center, which is a member of the Smart Ships Coalition. The coalition consists of academic institutions, state and federal agencies, international organizations, and private-sector entities that wish to study and promote marine autonomous technologies. The MARS zone created at the school is said to enjoy the benefits of highly accurate GPS data to aid in the collection of MASS information.

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