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I, Rowboat; robot-controlled boat carries out dock survey as peel ports plan for the future.

Byline: ALISTAIR HOUGHTON Business Editor @wimpyking

PEEL Ports has tested a robot boat at the Port of Liverpool - and says such unmanned ships could be used nationwide.

The firm is teaming up with ASV Global to see whether "autonomous vessels" could be used at its sites across the UK.

Many companies are now developing self-driving cars, amid predictions that such autonomous vehicles will soon become common on roads around the world.

Shipping lines are now investigating whether unmanned ships could start sailing the world's oceans.

ASV brought one of its autonomous vessels to Brocklebank Dock, in Bootle, to show what it could do. The C-Cat-3 carried out an underwater survey of the dock using an echo sounder.

Peel was so impressed by the demonstration that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ASV to see where the unmanned vessels can be used elsewhere in the UK.

Group harbour master at Peel Ports, Gary Doyle, said: "Bringing the best in class expertise together, we will facilitate an increased understanding of the benefits of autonomous vessels within port operations. "The industry is already pushing for their commercial use and autonomous vessels are already widely accepted by our customers, especially those in the energy sector. "This partnership with global leader ASV will cement our commitment to ensuring we are at the forefront of research and the latest cutting-edge technologies which will provide the best-possible service to our customers."

Sales and marketing director at ASV Global, Vince Dobbin, said: "There is enormous potential for the application of ASV technology within UK ports; we are delighted to be partnering with Peel Ports to leverage our combined expertise to realise these opportunities.

"Autonomous vessels have been gaining ground globally over recent years. We have proven the application of ASVs in a number of offshore environments and are excited to explore new areas of application." As well as the Port of Liverpool, Peel owns the Manchester Ship Canal and the ports at Heysham in Lancashire, Clydeport in Glasgow, Medway in Kent, and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. It also operates a container terminal in Dublin and owns the BG Freight shipping line.

Hampshire-based ASV has produced more than 100 autonomous vessels and has also converted many existing vessels so they can operate without crew.

Last year, , head of maritime technology at Liverpool John Moores University, Christian Matthews wrote on website The Conversation that it was "inevitable" unmanned ships would become more commonly used worldwide. But he said that change would be a long way off as regulations would need to change and technology would need to be fully tested.

On land, Uber is among the companies pioneering driverless cars. But its plans are on hold after a woman died in a collision with a self-driving Uber car in Arizona last month. Toyota also suspended its US self-driving car trials following the incident.


Peel Ports and ASV Global staff with the robot vessel, C-Cat-3

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 13, 2018
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