Automation in the marine and oil and gas industry


By Mohamed Metawie , Division Manager,  Ali & Sons Marine Engineering Factory L.L.C.

Is it time to call it a new world order when it comes to automation and robotic use in the marine and oil and gas industry? For many years we saw how movies painted a picture of an automated world with robots and human-less services.

Recently this sci-fi world starting to become reality with many drones flying and autonomous vessels roaming the earth aerospace and waters. But one comes to ask the famous question of: is it safe? Will we lose our jobs?

Well, the answer may vary from a generation and a culture to another. I have been discussing this topic in many forums and the answers are surprisingly very different depending on whom you ask.  Younger generation normally more drawn towards new technologies, and tend to see a large benefit and many opportunities while the more traditional generation is more focused on risks and loss of human jobs.

In fact, we have been looking at the automation and autonomous vessels as the inevitable future that will happen. The world is moving forward and this is what makes life easier, faster and more efficient. In 2003 Blackberry mocked a keyboard-less iPhone, calling it impractical. Today virtual keyboards are invading our everyday use.

Many designers and manufacturers have been studying remote controlled or autonomous vessels. Speaking at the Symposium Oskar Levander, Rolls-Royce, Vice President of Innovation – Marine, said: “This is happening. It’s not if, it’s when. The technologies needed to make remote and autonomous ships a reality exist. The AAWA project is testing sensor arrays in a range of operating and climatic conditions in Finland and has created a simulated autonomous ship control system which allows the behavior of the complete communication system to be explored. We will see a remote controlled ship in commercial use by the end of the decade.”

Recently, we have endeavored to introduce the first remotely controlled marine vessels to be produced in the U.A.E. In Cooperation with Exalto, M.A.P, we have developed a concept of transforming an ordinary manually controlled vessel into a semi-autonomous vessel. T

The benefits of this pilot projects are countless. Picture a fleet of remotely controlled vessel guarding our coast, without the need of crew leaving land and their family, or an offshore support vessel that can be safely operated from a safe haven instead of battling the rough seas.

In terms of automation we have studied many ideas such as using laser welding robotics that efficiently enhances productivity, reduces or eliminates rework, and increases work place safety. This all adds many to clients and reduces the duration needed for the job to be completed. This translates to faster project starts and higher productivity.