TWO Norwegian companies have joined forces to found the first autonomous shipping company.
Wilhelmsen and Kongsberg announced the formation of Massterly, a joint venture between the two companies to develop autonomous vessels.
Wilhelmsen group CEO Thomas Wilhelmsen said Norway, as a maritime nation, has taken a position at the forefront in developing autonomous ships.
“Through the creation of the new company named Massterly, we take the next step on this journey by establishing infrastructure and services to design and operate vessels, as well as advanced logistics solutions associated with maritime autonomous operations,” he said.
“Massterly will reduce costs at all levels and be applicable to all companies that have a transport need.”
The company plans to establish land-based control centres to monitor and operate autonomous ships in Norway and internationally.
The new entity is to take on board technological expertise from Kongsberg and logistics and ship management experience from Wilhelmsen.
Mr Wilhelmsen said although development was still at square one, he still believes that there will be a significant market for these types of services in the near future.
“At first, short sea shipping will use autonomous ships,” he said.
“This also implies increased competitiveness to move transport from road to sea. The gains are increased efficiency and reduction of emissions.
For Norway as a maritime nation, this will be an important contribution to reach the UN sustainable development goals.”
Kongsberg president and CEO Geir Håøy said Autonomy and remote operations are an important development for the maritime industry.
“In recent years there has been rapid development driven by a significant increase in demand from customers worldwide, from the traditional maritime industry and others,” he said.
“When autonomous ships soon are a reality, Massterly will be crucial for digitalising the infrastructure and operations.”
Kongsberg already has launched a project to build and operate an autonomous vessel: the Yara Birkeland.
When launched, it is to be the world’s first fully electric container vessel and is to be completely autonomous by 2020, sailing between Herøya, Brevik and Larvik in Norway.
Massterly is to be fully operational from August 2018 and will be based at offices in Lysaker, Norway.