The recent event titled ‘Creating a Leading Edge – Accelerating Autonomy to Unlock UK Opportunity’ brought together small businesses driving the maritime robotics sector with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency. The event served as a platform to present the outcomes of workshops held by the Society for Maritime Industries (SMI), with the aim of establishing how designers, builders, and operators of marine robotics can collaborate safely.
Maintaining the UK’s position as a leader in the marine autonomous system (MAS) industry requires a clear pathway for growth and streamlined regulations. SMI CEO Tom Chant emphasized the importance of enabling entrepreneurs to innovate quickly and effectively. He acknowledged that while red tape remains a challenge, both the government and the industry are actively working together to find solutions. The key, Chant stated, is for regulations to keep up with technological advancements without compromising safety.
According to Peter Collinson, SMI member and founder of consultancy firm Dendrityca, the UK MAS sector is losing momentum due to a combination of slow legislation and risk-averse industry practices. The slow pace of legislation presents regulatory risks for end users, discouraging investment in new MAS technology. Collinson believes that contractors prefer proven technology such as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) connected to manned ships, as there is a vested interest in continuing to use equipment they have already heavily invested in. The excessive red tape surrounding MAS serves as an excuse to avoid progressing in the field.
Collinson highlighted the significant benefits of MAS equipment, including drastically reduced carbon emissions, fuel consumption, and operating costs. Some MAS equipment can cut emissions by up to 99% and use as little as 60 liters of diesel per day, in contrast to traditional crewed vessels with ROVs that consume 12-15 tonnes of fuel daily. The potential to seize this MAS opportunity is undeniable.
In conclusion, the event on accelerating autonomy shed light on the challenges and opportunities within the UK maritime robotics sector. Collaboration between government, industry, and small businesses is crucial for achieving growth and streamlining regulations to support innovation while maintaining safety standards. With the vast potential for reducing carbon emissions and operating costs, embracing marine autonomous systems is a clear pathway to unlocking opportunities in the UK maritime industry.
– Society for Maritime Industries (SMI)
– Maritime & Coastguard Agency