Autonomous shipping, the perspective of Maritime Business Service Providers
Welcome to Rotterdam, the maritime capital of Europe. Here they test, develop and implement maritime innovations such as autonomous shipping. So let's discover Rotterdam as a maritime hotspot.
I'm at the Technical University of Delft to talk to Professor Rudy Negenborn. And I'm going to ask him about his vision on the future of autonomous shipping. Rudy, let's start with the first question. What is the status right now of autonomous shipping? Well, the status of autonomous shipping is going really well in the Rotterdam region.
There are a lot of developments. You could say that the ecosystem of knowledge institutes, industry in the port area, maritime businesses is really growing. As we speak, actually, we are doing a small scale pilot with autonomous ships. To try out the latest insights in technology. And in discussions with industry we're thinking about okay, how can we make small steps towards implementation? Besides the technological challenges there are also, for example, legal aspects.
Is an autonomous ship a ship? Maybe that sounds like a strange question, but depending on the legal conditions, which can also change from one country to another, the definition of a ship varies. So there are all kinds of legal rules and regulations that need to be checked for compliancy with these concepts. So to successfully implement autonomous shipping there are still a couple of challenges to be addressed, not only in the field of technology, but also in the field of regulation jurisdiction, financing and insurance.
Rotterdam has a complete maritime business services cluster. So let's talk to the maritime service providers. What does Dutch jurisdiction have to offer to autonomous shipping? The Dutch juristiction is a very accessible affordable and low-profile jurisdiction for people and parties to step into. It's a good system and it's not just the Dutch who are saying that, but it's also the rule of law index that has proven the Dutch system to be affordable, accountable. It's independent.
They score very good when it comes to transparency. Not fraudulous. Yes. Yes, it's very well established.
And very well recognized. So if you have a Dutch verdict, that means something in international business. And if we look at autonomous shipping and a maritime law and everything at what does the jurisdiction have to offer on that field? Well, it's important to understand that. Shipping is always evolving and it's important to know where you come from.
The Dutch have a very rich history when it comes to shipping, when it comes to knowledge of shipping. We have been in trade and shipping for a long time. And the people who are dealing with, these matters are very experienced in the field of law in general in the field of maritime law. The judges who have almost all have a maritime background. We have a specialized maritime chamber in the court of Rotterdam where proceedings can be held in English if parties desire so. And these people know what they're talking about.
Also, the lawyers also experts, they have a lot of knowledge and that is very important in the field of autonomous shipping because there are a lot of things that are yet unknown, you have to be able to feel What shipping is like and start from there and explore the field of autonomous shipping, but it's a good starting point that it's absolutely this specific area. Absolutely. Absolutely. Because So many things are unknown. There is now, well, established legislation for autonomous shipping. That's all in the making.
So, but at the same time, it's all in the making. We have a high standard of of legislation here in the Netherlands. But is it also flexible enough to adapt to the needs of autonomous shipping? Well, the good thing is because we don't have any legislation, the judges and lawyers and all people involved are capable of bending given the space that the existing legislation has they can fit the autonomous shipping into that framework. While in the meantime, lawmakers have to work on new laws, creating all the things needed. Liability and who does what, to create a new framework, which more specializes on autonomous shipping, but there is an existing framework and also within that existing framework, the people can very well work. And so there's a sense to the parties that framework is evolving and expanding at the same time.
Yes. Yes, like you always what you always see in law is that the process of lawmaking comes after the fact, finding. And first, we have a problem and then the judge is think something of it.
And then the lawmakers, think, okay. Well, this sounds reasonable. We're going into debt or disorders Direction, but first, it has to be Layer what Society thinks of it? If for example, an incident should occur with an autonomous sailing ship.
Then it's very, and it could happen that the public opinion is changing and that would mean that low making is making more strict laws. Well, if there are no problems and if it can be seen that, the existing law frame is doing well enough to provide a legal basis, then the adaptations that they are going to have to be made, there will be, of course, love of adaptations that need to be done, but will be lesser. ER, and will evolve in time as things move by. It sounds very interesting because in this whole field that is very Innovative and, and experimental and testing. People are talking about all the challenges, all the hiccups on the road, maybe, but what I hear right now is that the Dutch jurisdiction is ready for it. We've been ready ever since tell me where we're absolutely ready.
And it's also because of the hair. Which we have with sailing with trading being a stable base for people to come here to trade here. We don't have, we have not been ruling the ways like Great, Britain has, but we have been trading on the waves for a long, long time, and that's what gives us an advantage in this field. So the Netherlands as you said before, scores High, yes, internationally. What? An Dutch jurisdiction offer internationally for for the global Community when it comes to autonomous shifting reliability.
Independency. I think these are the two main things, the Dutch legal system is very transparent. The people working here are accessible, not just that you can call them and talk to them but the Dutch do speak their language and it's important for somebody coming from the our part of the world to be able. To find somebody here, who has an open mind understands the problems are dealing with. It's not just admitted.
We have the technical possibilities. We have, I think the open mind and linguistical kept capabilities to make life easier for the people who come here. And also the willingness, which is also a great thing to be of assistance to the party's coming here.
Sounds like you are ready for the open dialog so people can step in and join the dialogue. Yes. Yes. Absolutely. It's something that has to be done together.
So if people want to come and talk to the Dutch lawyers experts judges, we are here to start a dialogue and talk to them based on our experience. And see, OK. What can, what can we done now in this new are evolving field? Well, it sounds very exciting and also sounds as a very open invitation. Yes, it does. News.
Okay, we've talked about the dirt jurisdiction. But what is the status of international law when it comes to autonomous shipping and how is the Dutch jurisdiction? Helping their, as I said law is always coming after the facts. It's like something moving very much in slow motion and the international organizations are moving but are moving even slower, but they are definitely moving. And since Maritime business is a global business.
And Inland shipping is European. Mostly European thing. You have to look at what these organizations are doing. The main organization is our diamo, the international Maritime organization. They have picked up, autonomous, shipping are looking at. What are the things that need to be adjusted adapted? How where when the main principles are being looked at and they're under under construction and that's the same as is happening with the CC and are some Total committee for the navigation of the Rhine.
The IMO is a global organization and a Dutch having a post ocean-going, Fleet are important, but we don't have the largest Fleet in the world. Well, if you look at the cc&r to Dutch have the largest Inland going Fleet in Europe. And we definitely play a big part there because of the knowledge we have because of the amount of ships we have and also the cc&r is looking. What is the legislation? Like what? He adapted to what is the world than navigating World. Expecting from us? A lot of projects are running nowadays within Europe and the sepa supervision of the CC.
And I like the fact of forest that you already mentioned kept in My rijkswaterstaat, All parties heavily involved to see where can we help each other and there is room and their space given also by the Dutch Ministry to start these projects, and to see okay. Where can we help each other? And do they look at the Dutch lesson legislation? As an example. Do they watch what? The the, how it evolves over here? I think old many too many differences there.
No, I think all parties everybody is looking at everybody because it's so new. And the international organizations are looking. How are two different countries dealing with the different difficulties that they are encountering? And it's not logic. If somebody has a brilliant idea to say, well you invented it and I'm going to do it all again by myself.
No, it's brilliant idea. So let's benefit all from it. But until the brilliant idea of holes. Everybody is looking and saying, well, how can we adapt to this occasion to this autonomous shipping in our part of the world? For our Fleet? Our people? What's important to us and then see if we can make this work within the greater system. All working together. EPS.
Absolutely. Absolutely. This is all working together. You can't do this on your own, its Global navigation. So it's absolutely useless to try and do this on your own.
You need to cooperate. Are there any parallels found between the different Maritime, sectors? Yes. There are always parallel to be found in differences to be met when it comes to, everybody is working with autonomous shipping nowadays ocean-going.
See going Inland going Whistles and you tried to benefit from what the other part is creating what? The other part is come up with and you can be of assistance to each other but also each has their limitations. What goes for ocean-going vessels? Does not necessarily work, for eminent going vessels. And also if you look at for example, the course, if you look at the in l'm going vessels, the cost of personnel is relatively High compared to all the other costs. While if you have Have a big ocean going vessel.
The percentage of crude cost is much lower when it comes to the whole package. The whole amount of money that you spend on keeping the ship afloat, but can there are some parts of the framework be applied to different sectors. I think the IMO and the international community's like the CC and our and also other relevant Regional organizations are talking to each other and interchanging. Mission to see what can be useful and what not. practical approach, like shipping always has been So, are there any legal tips that you can give to companies that want to onboard on the whole autonomous shipping flow? Yes, and that is to look very closely to the contract because it's a new thing.
It's a new world. We're stepping into and not everywhere. The legislative framework can offer the assistance, you would like such as you have with a collision.
Everybody knows which rules apply to a collision, but when it comes to autonomous shipping Always specific parts that need to be sorted out and if you don't have that transparency, if not all is yet, clear. You have to have a very good contract that is as solid as you can get it. You cannot always prevent everything that is going to happen.
That would cost you a 400-page, contract, and still something will happen. That is not in the contrary. It has to be based on faith, on Mutual interests, but it's very good to have a good drawn contract to realize, what are the things that Can happen that can go wrong.
And if you have that, well, I think it's good way to start and I think in that manner it's also very important to exchange that information so that every area can be covered in to a contract. Yes. Yes, you don't hold your cards back. Exactly.
That means experiences. Learn from each other. Yes, move forward together. Learn from each other benefit from each other and then move onwards mutual benefits. It sounds like we're ready for our also destinies.
Okay, this is going to be interesting for new parties who want to go and work in the field of autonomous shipping. Do you have any tips for them? Yes. Seek assistance, and make sure you have good contracts.
The funny thing is that you often see that parties are involved in very expensive projects. And they don't want to spend the money for a lawyer or anybody with legislative information or experience to draw up a good contract. They say, we'll make it ourselves and I think that's a shame because if such a lot of money is involved and it's it's about such a new thing where legislation does not cover all things that could possibly happen. Certainty is everything for international trade, for trade in general, and all the uncertainty must be Avoided and how can you do that? Well, try to mention it in the contract, try to think about. Okay, what if all the what ifs should be addressed and then you will have the certainty? Okay, we tried and not, you will, you won't have to certainty that. Everything that could ever possibly happen will be in the contact.
Definitely not. But larger part will be in it and I think that gives you a good night sleep, a better night sleep than if you would not have done it much better nice. But how can you lessen the risks? How can you make sure that you have all the what ifs in the contract talk to somebody? Who knows? And that does not necessarily has to be a lawyer, but somebody with experience and I think it's very much, know, your trade. Like they say horses, for courses, go to somebody who knows and talk to experts.
Try to benefit from each other. Don't hold back. You have to disclose if you start a relationship with another party. You have to disclose and say okay.
These are my Forte's and these are my uncertainties. How can we work this out? So you put your cards on the table? Yes, you have to exchange experiences and learn from them. Yes. And not.
Hold back and keep it to yourself. No. Because you always run the risk that like a boomerang, it comes back to you and it will hurt you. But it sounds like especially here in the Netherlands that, that we are ready for autonomous. Shipping water, already wrote it on. Definitely is Let's Dive Right In.
What is the bank's perspective on autonomous shipping? Well, to be quite honest. We don't have that much experience yet with autonomy shipping. So there's not a real concrete policy yet for the bank. How do we treat companies that that are going to do this? There's not much experience yet. But of course, as more in general, we welcome companies that are Innovative.
We see that Innovative companies that the frontrunners In sustainability in data, they are tomorrow's winners. Definitely. We will. Welcome the fact that people that companies looking to this. So it's a welcoming perspective.
That's new. There's still some ground to be to be a cover. Yes, if we look at financing autonomous shipping. There are some risks of what are the risks involved. Now, I don't think that autonomous shipping will be 500 already for all sectors, but some sectors. Like for example, if it's Very dangerous, like, firefighting or Salvage.
Their we see already that autonomous shipping can definitely add. But if you have a big container ship that, definitely, she risks in having that being operated from a from a distance. What if something goes wrong? You have to do. Repairs can know people on board to do small repairs. So you have to go too short that's and especially with big ships. The crewing expenses are relatively small compared to the savings that you have with autonomous shipping.
So, why you should look in. Its really in the in Data in the, in the logistics and management of different cracker streams. They are the the data. And the autonomy shipping can really add having said that, of course, there are risks sides to the operational part that we just mentioned.
That one of the most obvious reason, is of course the liabilities. Yeah, every ship has who Machinery insurance. Now that's probably covers everything that goes that if the ship goes goes broke, but the liabilities are of course something that at the Pinnacle of definitely need to take a few points off. And there, we follow them. Exactly. As a matter of fact, we conditioning or loan agreements that faces are properly secured and insured.
And insured means both the ship itself, but also the Damage Done to others and their with autonomous shipping. And it's an interesting one. So every risk has to be covered. Yes, and especially if you it's a global industry, especially if you travel all around the world you have a lot of legislation.
What everybody needs to be aligned with respect to on Thomas shipping and there are, of course, that's a long way, I would say. But yeah, it's good to see that. The first steps are being taken so long way but it's moving ahead and can those risks be included in the loan application. Yeah. Sure sure. We expect from our customers to apply to the local rules for local regulations and to apply to the class societies.
So they have to be in class and Last year, of course, is also a role to play, but I think that being practical, it has to be small steps first. So perhaps inland waterways, small trades between Rotterdam and for example, Amsterdam or flushing, that can be easily managed because you're in one legislation one country. So, I think they're, that's just the first steps that's over seeable. Yes, or perhaps in the port of Rotterdam with the linesman or not.
That took says, of course, in Rotterdam, the first initiatives already been taken. With a remote-controlled vessels so that we see definitely opportunities. Okay, and if people are thinking of, and if people are thinking about a loan application for autonomous shipping, do you have any tips for them? What additional information? Should they give or provide that what we see often with with Innovation? And especially with these kind of new ground? Is that it's either very small pioneering companies are the guys in the in the barn that the that make their own stuff. Yeah. Or the big companies that have big R&D departments and that work together with the delft University or Martin, and they have the day of the sufficient funds. And I would say to the letter.
Of course. We are, we are more than welcome to support them and for the, for the startup companies or scale up companies. Yeah, come to us and talk to us, but especially in the early stage bank finance is not the most suitable solution. It's all starts with equity and are a lot of subsidies available. As well. And we can support them in getting getting knowing the way in the in the different subsidies available.
And there's of course the maritime master plan, which is now been presented lately. And they're also the The Innovation budgets are really, really big, so that should give opportunities also for smaller companies. That's good to hear that. There are a lot of opportunities to have it financed. But if you look at, if you look worldwide are Dutch bank, The front-runner in financing, autonomous shipping the front-runner in financing. Should definitely be the Venture Capital funds.
The, the people that are really taking bigger risks than Bank. We are being a bit more conservative in the conservative partly because that's what our shareholders expect and partly, because the regulator expects from us being conservative, but Holland, as such is, of course, with the TU delft. We sponsor, the TU delft Maritime students with the first day of the show. Our team nowadays, they do a hydrogen, perhaps, they can add autonomous shipping as well to that, that will be great and will be great. We have margin, of course in marketing, which is worldwide. Well, known.
And we have, we have all the institute's here in Holland. So yeah, I would definitely say that that Holland should be in front of the development. Well, as we were talking about that, this is a whole new field, that is still being explored, but Innovations are going pretty fast and the bank is welcoming.
It definitely is Asserted the enough of companies are tomorrow's winners. And if you don't do anything yet. You're stuck.
Well opportunities all around. Come on Binx. Thank you. All right. So the Netherlands is a shipping Nation.
But if we look globally on an international scale is the sector ready for a Autonomous. Shipping. What is their status right now? Yeah. Well, they said there's been a lot of developments. We we see it as an issue as well. Of course, a lot of research has been done, new developments in the market, new technologies being introduced.
So the business is going forward. However, the other still steps to be steps to be made. It's still pretty much in its infancy.
Yeah, so still a lot to be doing be done in order to make to make autonomous shipping mainstream, but there's there's yeah, there's issues. That's day that they are facing. And that mainly has to do with International regulations.
Okay? And handsome, international shipping regulation is not really suitable for for autonomous shipping as it stands. So, yeah, it needs to be adapted and we, as ensures we are we, of course, eagerly looking forward for some clarity in that respect. So we're trying to get information from International bodies from classification, societies, local authorities. So yeah, we Trying to build up some some knowledge in this respect. So that is is a boundary that is is being a put there, but it sounds like the international laws are not ready yet. Now, the store still a lot of work to be done in that, respect in deeds and an additional problem is that, that is, there's of course not the the actual number of vessels being insured by insurance is still pretty low as well.
So there's no historic data yet. So it's really still unexplored territory. Basically.
You could say. So yeah, there's still a lot of the lot to be learnt and what we are trying to do as an issue is yeah trying to try to get as much information as possible, of course, but also on a case-by-case basis, we trying to help out our clients. When we get inquiries, we do it. We do with do tailored tailor-made approach. We try to assist them. Yeah.
As any as an insurer, what we do indeed. Even though we're still looking for the answers. Yeah, we take the approach that we try to help our clients on a case-by-case basis, try to make tailor-made Solutions and basically gathering information in order to be able in the future to hopefully on the right is business on the larger scale, but we're not there yet.
So this is what we need. We need the interaction. We need the exchange of information of data of more input to move forward and you work it should be a mutual effort indeed between insurers. Tween classification, societies between the between local authorities, possibly and the client themselves. So it should really be a, hopefully, a joint effort in order to really get a grip on this on this new. Let's say business.
Okay, we're talking about insurance or we're talking about risks, but are there any specific risks being flagged for autonomous vessels in comparison to the traditional American industry? Yeah. Well, I think there's, let's say the pros and the cons, there's this Of course, no historic data yet. But when we, when we think about these risks, there's the obvious advantage of there. Not being no crew on board. So, from a liability perspective, you won't have any cool liability claims. No, no loss of life.
Death of the crew. So that's, that's a big advantage, of course. And also, the element of the say, human are a lot of pni claims are caused by human error. He's at Sea. And yeah, that element is taken away to a large extent as well.
So that's that's an advantage. But when we think of houses, there are some, some possible issues and that's the basically the technology itself for the safety of navigation. Of course, you're fully reliable on on the systems that are builds. You have to make sure that all the sensors on board are of good quality. That's all still needs to be tested.
Found out also the for back systems. If this, if the system fails what Happens. What, what can be done is all elements that need to be a well-considered. Of course. There's also the issue of those vessels having batteries on board. A lot of those facets, of course, electrical proposed here.
So they have batteries on board. Well, we've probably heard in the news. You've probably seen it as well within a with with cars colliding Catching Fire.
Yeah. It's very hard to distinguish. The fire of over battery. So that may also be an issue if you are at Sea, of course, or in a ports area and you have a battery burning, it's really hard to it to extinguish the fire. So that's also put a potential Hazard, I would say and then they had.
And then there's the, the legislation. There's a lot of things are uncertain. For example, when you look at Collision risks, you've got the co-rec regulations, which Define on how let's say, liabilities are abortions at. See if In case of a collision and yeah, in case on autonomous face, all those regulations are really written for meant vessels. So if you don't have crew on board, yeah.
What happens. There's no negligence of anyone on board, you know, so, that's yeah. Yeah, we still blames. It's really hard to determine the liability that situation and good seamanship.
It's all related normally to crew. So that's also a challenge in detail at that lies ahead. And the last thing I can think of is, of course, cyber risks vessel being Being taken over by by, by someone may be a terrorist. Who's got you? Don't worry and a hex unmanned vessel.
Exactly. Are you never know? What they, what they, what they are, what the purpose is, what they want to do, but that's also potential. So there's a lot of exciting developments going on in this autonomous shipping industry. But how do you see the future of autonomous shipping from an insurance perspective? Well what we see now is that most initiatives in autonomous, shipping are all local.
Initiatives and I think, yeah, in the foreseeable future. I think there's going to stay that way because of the problem with with the legislation. So I think we are going to see more and more projects on inland waterways short, see projects. But not so many International voyages because of the issues with International legislation, I think, is gonna remain until yeah, institutional ready to adapt the the conventions, for example, and I know that the, the Imo Done a done a project recently that they finalize, that in May of this year.
But the I think is still still going to take considerable time for them to actually change change the conventions. So in the meantime, we as ensures where we just try to get keep gathering information. Also, keep a close eye on the on the technology on how that of course, still has to prove itself. And yeah, I think it will also be important to see how many Claims and how many incidents there will be, which we can learn from exactly. So it may not be not every Insurance.
May be interested to already step in this market in the, in these early stages, but I'm pretty sure that. Yeah. As the, as the the issues are there to serve the market, that they will actually grow with with the business, with the clients and eventually be able to provide the necessary coffee ready to adapt and to move along. So there are still plenty of challenges before autonomous shipping can actually be realized, but thanks to cooperation between maritime experts. Government's knowledge institutions and professional service providers. Rotterdam is leading the way to autonomous shipping.
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