Norwegian maritime giants Kongsberg and Wilhelmsen have created a joint venture company, known as Massterly, to provide solutions and services in autonomous shipping.
According to a statement, Massterly will establish the infrastructure necessary to design and operate autonomous vessels, as well as devise advanced logistics solutions for autonomous maritime operations.
"Currently, we are at the very beginning of this development, but we see and believe that there will be a significant market for these types of services in the near future,” says Wilhelmsen group CEO Thomas Wilhelmsen. “At first, short sea shipping will use autonomous ships. This also implies increased competitiveness to move transport from road to sea.”
Norway has already established itself as an early leader in the field of autonomous shipping with the creation of the Yara Birkleland. The vessel — owned by chemical company Yara International — will be the world’s first fully-electric container ship, and will operate autonomously between the company’s production facilities at Herøya and the ports of Brevik and Larvik starting in 2020.
Massterly will aim to deliver and operate autonomous vessels such as Yara Birkeland. To do this, it also plans to set up land-based control centres to monitor its autonomous fleet.
“Autonomy and remote operations are an important development for the maritime industry and Norway's lead has been made possible as a result of close cooperation between the Norwegian maritime cluster and the Norwegian authorities,” says Geir Håøy, Kongsberg’s president and CEO.
“In recent years there has been rapid development driven by a significant increase in demand from customers worldwide, from the traditional maritime industry and others. When autonomous ships soon are a reality, Massterly will be crucial for digitalising the infrastructure and operations.”
The new joint venture company will be based at offices in Lysaker, Norway, and will be fully operational from August of this year.