A 12-metre long ship docked in Ostend on Tuesday after crossing from England entirely without crew, Belga reports. The ship, christened Maxlimer and owned by the British company Sea-Kit, was piloted remotely from its base in England, in what is being described as a worldwide first. The crossing took place without incident, the ship managing successfully to avoid other vessels and obstacles such as wind turbines.
The voyage took place with the cooperation of the British maritime authorities, Belgium’s federal mobility ministry, the Flemish maritime services agency and the port authority of Ostend.
Also involved in the experiment, the first crossing to be guided remotely on the high seas, was Belgian entrepreneur Antoon Van Coillie, CEO de Blue Line Logistics. He now intends to use the technology for his own water transports. “We hope to see crewless boats on our internal waterways within two years,” he said. “The technology is there, but the necessary regulations have not yet come into force.”
The use of remote guidance offers a number of advantages, not least of them safety. “Around 85% of accidents at sea these days are due to human error,” he said. “With this technology, we will be making maritime transport more safe, and more environmentally-friendly.”
As for employment, Blue Line intends to recycle ships’ crews to other functions. “Ships still have to be piloted, even at a distance,” he said.
The Maxlimer has now left Ostend to travel back to the UK, again without a crew.