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Fair winds to the automation of shipping

Publication date 3.12.2021 11.16
Artikkeli: Luotettavasti, turvallisesti joukkoliikenteessä. Ministeri Timo Harakka
Timo Harakka (Photo: Suvi-Tuuli Kankaanpää Keksi/LVM)

Finland wants to be a pioneer in transport automation. We want to be involved in determining the direction of automation development globally.

The automation of transport will facilitate the movement of people and goods and promote safe and low-emission transport.

On 25 November 2021, the Government of Finland issued a resolution on the promotion of transport automation to support this objective. The decision applies to all modes of transport, including shipping. It includes policies and measures with which we will implement our vision of sustainable and safe transport automation.

We are now moving on from envisioning to creating the practical preconditions for automation. There’s an enormous amount of work ahead of us. More broad-scoped autonomous transport will also require cooperation both in Finland and internationally.

A demand for Finnish expertise

International cooperation for the development and deployment of automation has already progressed in a tangible manner. At the beginning of November, I visited the United States, and the themes of the visit included the automation of shipping, smart ports, 5G and 6G cooperation and the green transition of transport.

In the Seattle region, we focused on business and research cooperation. In Washington D.C., I met with representatives of the administration, including representatives of the Coast Guard and the US Navy. There were more admirals in that room than I've seen ever before in my life. At these meetings we outlined practical cooperation concerning autonomous vessels and systems for civilian shipping.

During the visit, we signed a cooperation document with the state of Washington concerning such things as the green transition, security and efficiency of ports and logistics.

There is demand for Finnish expertise in all these themes, and our expertise is valued. We can provide real-time situational information on port areas and inbound vessels, and provide 5G solutions that enable rapid exchange of information so that ports become smart ports.

We also laid the foundation for closer expert cooperation between our countries in the automation of shipping and development of artificial intelligence. We will now launch working groups where Finnish and US shipping experts from both the public and private sectors can promote the utilisation of automation and artificial intelligence in shipping and ports.

The themes discussed in the cooperation groups will include autonomous and network technologies, artificial intelligence, testing cooperation, data management and utilisation, and closer cooperation within the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

We will create experimentation platforms, which are referred to as regulatory sandboxes, in which, we can exchange common experiences that will enable us to develop legislation and demonstrate the safety of developed solutions effectively and quickly.

We influence global regulations

The means of national legislation are always limited. We will aim to pilot and possibly introduce solutions in Finland’s national waters. For example, the piloting of remote pilotage is already supported by Finnish legislation.

It is more important than ever before to influence global regulations so that we can utilise automation as a means for safe and sustainable shipping. It is clear that automation is also an important means for mitigating climate change.

I am delighted that the IMO has decided to launch a project the aim of which is internationally binding regulation to facilitate safe automation. IMO cooperation always plays an important role in our activities.

We also need to influence EU legislation on issues such as artificial intelligence, cyber security and data use. EU funding should be better used than previously to also promote automation. At the same time, we also want to have a say in the EU on the areas in which research, innovation and pilots are focused.

Concrete cooperation has already been carried out to enable the preconditions and deployment of automation in many important research and innovation projects and experiments.

I would like to encourage even closer cooperation not only in company and research institute networks, but also between companies, research institutes and authorities both nationally and internationally.

On the front lines of automation and autonomy

The development of automation in shipping is slow and fast at the same time. Vessel systems are constantly evolving, reducing the risk of human error and supporting decision-making. Different degrees of autonomy are already being tested and the regulation that will enable this is being actively discussed.

Even so, there is still a long way to go for large-scale autonomous shipping, and many technical and legislative issues still need to be resolved prior to this. At any rate, we have made a good start. We actively influence by ensuring the availability of ethical services as well as services and solutions that improve human welfare, which also support the work of shipping professionals.

Timo Harakka
Minister of Transport and Communications

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