Unmanned autonomous cargo ships may change the maritime industry, but there are issues regarding reliability and maintenance of machinery equipment that are yet to be solved. This article examines the applicability of the Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) method for assessing maintenance needs and reliability issues on unmanned cargo ships. The analysis shows that the RCM method is generally applicable to the examination of reliability and maintenance issues on unmanned ships, but there are also important limitations. The RCM method lacks a systematic process for evaluating the effects of preventive versus corrective maintenance measures. The method also lacks a procedure to ensure that the effect of the length of the unmanned voyage in the development of potential failures in machinery systems is included. Amendments to the RCM method are proposed to address these limitations, and the amended method is used to analyse a machinery system for two operational situations: one where the vessel is conventionally manned and one where it is unmanned. There are minor differences in the probability of failures between manned and unmanned operation, but the major challenge relating to risk and reliability of unmanned cargo ships is the severely restricted possibilities for performing corrective maintenance actions at sea.
This PhD theis focuses on identifying the opportunities and challenges that on-board maintenance and practical operation of vessels poses in the development of autonomous ships. Inspired by the rapid development of autonomous vehicles considerable effort and interest is now invested in the development of autonomous ships. So far however, most of the research has focused on the legal aspect of unmanned vessels and on developing a system enabling a vessel to operate within the maritime collision regulation without human interaction. Specifically, the theisi looks into three research questions: (1) How is autonomous technology going to affect the workload required for operating and maintaining modern cargo vessels? (2) How is autonomous technology going to affect the operational patterns of the vessels? And (3) How is autonomous technology going to affect the reliability and utilization rate of the vessels?
The study is planned in cooperation between Svendborg International Maritime Academy (SIMAC) and University of Southern Denmark.