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The Russian Maritime Register of Shipping has approved the a-Nav suite for autonomous vessels

On December 12, Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (RS) has approved the set of technical solutions for automatic and remote navigation. That will allow to use a-Navigation on the ships under the RS regulation, which are mostly registered under the Russian flag. Previously Russian government has approved the decree enabling wide operation of the maritime autonomous vessels under the State flag of RF as a national wide experiment till 2025. Also, on June 30, RS had published The Guidelines on the classification of maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS), and on December 1 – The Guidelines on Cyber Safety.

The a-Nav suite is developed during the project carried out in Russia in 2019-2020 by a number of technology and shipping companies with the leadership by Industry Association MARINET.

The developed solutions are based on the Comprehensive Functional Equivalence principle, which supposes strict fulfillment of the functions prescribed today for the crew on board by the current safety regulation in the autonomous mode. That allows to operate MASS within the framework of the current international regulation, as is, and to coexist MASS with traditional ships.

The a-Nav is focused mostly on automatic navigation rather than on remote mode and includes combination of traditional and new systems. “Among traditional technologies we use radar, AIS and other onboard navigation, engine and mechanic control systems, trajectory control systems and communication equipment. The new systems are developed in three major points – where we need to provide functional equivalence to the human: Autonomous Navigation System, Optical Surveillance and Analysis System, and Remote Control Center”, says head of MARINET and the project lead Alexander Pinskiy.

“Autonomous Navigation System (ANS) is the next level of evolution of Integrated Navigation Systems. It can automatically integrate and validate navigation data from different sources – electronic charts, radar, AIS, optical surveillance system, weather station, satellite images including ice conditions and etc. – what is currently done by human on the bridge in his mind. Then it can automatically recognize dangers of collisions and other navigation restrictions, and make decision for maneuvering taking into account vessel parameters and COLREGs requirements. For this we have, probably, the first translated COLREGs into univocal computer algorithms. Maneuvering can be done in three modes: automatically, automatically with confirmation by human and manually when ANS is used as a decision support system – either by the remote operator of by the crew onboard”, Pinskiy explained.

Optical Surveillance and Analysis System (OSA) is an optical system capable to recognize and identify automatically objects 360 degrees around the vessel, up to 12 miles and to transmit these data in machine-reading form to the ANS. It has feedback link with ANS – the same as man onboard is checking visually objects identified by AIS or radar. Also, OSA provides video image to the remote operator and the crew onboard, automatic mode is considered as the main. For this OSA use machine learning for objects identification and combination of visible and infrared ranges for objects recognition. Additionally, OSA includes smart internal CCTV enabling to control visually spaces and devices of the vessel in the remote mode, which can work automatically reacting on some predefined events.

The Remote Control Center is a remote bridge with high level automation, but outside the vessel. It includes interfaces to all navigation, technical and control systems as well as to radio and messaging systems onboard, and permanent audio and video link to ship’s bridge. Due to high level of automation the watch can be kept by one operator – and even by one operator for several vessels in future. Remote Control Center can be installed not only in shore offices of shipping companies, but on board of lead vessel of convoy. Such scenario is currently tested on the dredging convoy by Rosmorport, where Remote Control Center is mounted on dredger to monitor and control barges working with the dredger.

The a-Nav suite is at the final stage of sea trials in the condition of real operation on several vessels of three major Russian shipping companies, and it will be available to the commercial use by shipping companies after its successful completion. Tests are carried out on the tanker Mikchail Ulyanov in Arctic (SCF), the general cargo ship Pola Anfisa in Black Sea (Pola Group) and the dredging convoy including the dredger Redut and the barge Rabochaya in Black and Azov seas (Rosmorport), as reported by Alexander Pinskiy.

On December 7 and 8 the first memorandums of intention to equip commercial vessels by a-Nav suite have being already signed. Russian shipping companies Morspetservice (Sakhalin) and SeaEnergy (St. Petersburg) agreed with Kronshtadt Technologies (St. Petersburg based technology company) to equip  20 merchant vessels till 2025. The first three ships will be delivered into operation in 2021. In general, MARINET has unveiled plans to equip at least 100 autonomous vessels under the Russian flag till 2023.