At the monthly Maritime Business Breakfast in November, JANNE SILDEN of Rolls-Royce Marine explained how advances in digital technology are driving change and invited her audience to discover what makes intelligent ships tick.

Where is commercial shipping steering? How can today’s vessels be transformed for tomorrow’s technology? A Business Breakfast in late November sought to find some answers to these and other questions. Around forty guests came to hear Janne Silden, Sales Manager at the Hamburg subsidiary of Rolls Royce Marine, sketch the future of marine and offshore operations and show what role digital technology plays in taking the industry forward. In a compelling presentation, Silden highlighted Rolls-Royce’s new vessel design and showed how her company’s technology is helping ship owners to cut costs and boost revenue by providing advanced data and energy management technology. Ultimately, the industry aims to develop remotely controlled, autonomous merchant vessels, along the lines of driverless cars. This puts communication at the core of all new developments. For instance, remote maintenance – where an onshore engineer communicates with onboard staff to troubleshoot, repair defective equipment and provide remote support – requires a stable data connection between shore and ship. Rolls Royce has set up a project partnership with digital communications experts Drynet GmbH to tackle this challenge. Seamus McMillen, senior consultant at Drynet, demonstrated his company’s solutions using a standard mobile phone to communicate with a vessel 30 miles offshore.
The presentation was followed by a lively question-andanswer session. The audience of experts from many different areas of the marine and offshore industries were interested in the underlying technology, asking how effective remote maintenance is in an area that is still very hands-on, and debating how soon vessels are likely to become completely autonomous. The consensus was that in the coming years the focus is more likely to be on upgrading existing vessels rather than on rolling out fleets of fully autonomous ships. As Janne Silden puts it: “The best way to predict the future is to create the future together.”


Text: Fiona Sangster