Norwegian-based global maritime industry Wilhelmsen and technology giant Kongsberg have established Massterly, the world’s first autonomous shipping company. The two companies describe Massterly—the name is derived from “Marine Autonomous Surface Ships” (MASS)—as “the next step in autonomous shipping, offering a complete value chain from design and development, to control systems, logistics services, and vessel operations.”
Massterly will benefit from the companies’ combined 360 years of experience, Wilhelmsen’s staff in over 2,200 ports in 70 countries, and Kongsberg’s global technology reach. Both companies point to Norway’s pioneering role in maritime autonomy, highlighting Yara Birkeland, the world’s first fully-electric container vessel that will be completely autonomous by 2020.
Kongsberg’s maritime aftermarket business developer Carl Magne Rustand stated: “Massterly’s first priority is to go to market with our sustainable logistic solutions based on MASS, and to achieve full utilization of the scaling effect in our solutions. The CEO is being recruited now. Massterly will have a lean start-up with 4-5 people, plus major support from the mother companies. It will grow with need.”
Land-based control centers will be established to monitor and operate autonomous ships in Norway and internationally, according to Rustand. “When the first ship approaches the operational stage, we will focus on optimal operations ensuring safe, secure, and efficient MASS operation. Product development, communication infrastructure, and approval of alternative unmanned solutions will be processes run in parallel, with major support from the mother companies and industry partners.”
“As for major challenges,” he noted, “the biggest will be to develop rules and regulations and achieve acceptance for MASS worldwide. But the industry, including many IMO flag states, is very positive and actively working towards regulations. The first ships will sail under local flags, with approvals to deviate from existing rules and regulations.”
Environment considerations will also play a major role in Massterly’s business focus. “Unmanned is not the main driver in our projects. It’s the need to make zero emission energy solutions cost-competitive. The low maintenance needed for a fully battery-powered vessel goes hand-in-hand with unmanned, enabling us to compete with the cost of truck transport. Our competitors in the beginning are not other ships, but trucks. We are expanding the marine business by moving goods from road to sea.”