Maritime traffic is increasing day by day. Therefore, improving the safety level of life at sea is deeply necessary. The examined statistics show that the primary causes of incidents and accidents are attributable to the human factor: the solution evaluated in this thesis consists of limiting the human factor onboard. In particular, limiting human error could reduce the frequency of incidents and accidents and their severity, positively affecting the protection of human life, environmental conservation, and operating costs. Unfortunately, historically, new technologies and navigation support tools are not always fully exploited and used in the maritime field due to the limited trust against them. Instead, these technological innovation tools are mainly used for limited research project applications, such as autonomous and remote-control navigation. Indeed, these innovations could be used to equip surface vehicles with the tools necessary to achieve situational awareness, allowing the development of a decision support system that be helpful for a bridge operator to take safety navigation decisions or enable autonomous navigation completely overriding the human operator. Due to the several benefits that these technologies promise to bring, global interest has grown enormously in recent years, leading to the creation of international consortia to work on and found several projects concerning autonomous navigation enabling technologies in order to obtain a smart ship. However, the question may arise as to whether it is actually worth investing so heavily in these types of technologies, given that the promises of cost reduction and increased safety are based on hypothetical comparisons as no fully autonomous ship has yet been launched. Fortunately, the significant projects illustrated in the thesis have a near future as their deadline. For these reasons, in the next few years, it will be possible to know and quantify which and how essential the benefits they bring will be. Furthermore, it is also legitimate to question the field of applicability of these technologies. It presented that these technologies are already widely used for small boats, less than 20 m in length, for scientific research purposes and military uses. Of course, the ship's dimensions are not the only characteristics to be considered but also the task that the ship has to carry out and how much the crew is involved in carrying out more or less complex tasks. For instance, in fishing ships, several tasks performed by the crew might be too complex to be performed by a machine. Thus, removing the crew can be challenging, especially for service ships and fishing ships. Indeed, in such a case, a complete decision support system that helps the bridge operator take correct decisions 12 during navigation is more suitable than removing the crew onboard. Moreover, the assumption that reaching full autonomous navigation may be limited to smaller ships with the crew performing easily replaceable tasks is supported by the CEO of Maersk, Søren Skou. Regarding the added safety benefit of large autonomous container ships, the impact of removing the crew will be small since there are only a few lives lost on container ships in general. Therefore, the added safety benefit would not be a good reason to invest in (large) autonomous container ships. This thesis wants to emphasise that not all ships will be easily replaced by their autonomous evolutions for various reasons, such as the complexity of the crew's tasks onboard or the impossibility of removing the human factor representing the payload as in cruise ships. In all these cases, in order to improve safety during navigation, it is essential to provide the ship with a decision support system fed with sensors onboard. Furthermore, the research that is being carried out, and this thesis fits into this context, is studying and developing automated control logics which, if both the achievement of autonomous navigation and the development of a decision support system for the bridge operator, are essential for both developments. In conclusion, the undersigned point of view is that it makes little sense to question whether it will bring significant benefits that justify the potential cost increase. On the other hand, the human being has always been thirsty for knowledge since eating in the garden of Eden of the forbidden fruit of knowledge. For this reason, technological development in this area must be completed and only after implementing the first projects, it will be possible to quantify any benefits and disadvantages effectively. To conclude, in the Divine Comedy, the great navigator Ulysses, placed in Hell by Dante and dead for having wanted to venture beyond the Pillars of Hercules, states: "…fatti non foste a viver come bruti, ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza." (…you were not made to live as brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.). It could be sarcastically argued that he bit more than one can chew and that he could have died on terra firma of old age if he had used a bireme equipped with a decision support system that would have been useful to avoid the deadly shipwreck in order to be able reaching the Purgatory island.
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|Titolo della tesi:||Enabling technologies and decision support systems towards autonomous navigation of ships|
|Data di discussione:||24-mag-2022|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||Tesi di dottorato|