Crewless ships sail into the North Sea and into underwriters’ risk assessment

North Sea
Among the devastating weather events of the last couple of weeks, it would have been easy to overlook what may be a significant development for both insurers and insureds.

Wärtsilä, the Finnish supplier of equipment to the energy and marine sectors, has carried out a successful test to control a platform support vessel in the North Sea remotely from a base in San Diego, California – more than 5,000 miles away. During the test, the vessel was remotely controlled through a series of manoeuvres over a period of more than four hours at both high and low speeds. The operation was conducted using a mixture of Wärtsilä’s DP system and joystick control from California. No land based technology was used for the communication between the vessel and the operators.

Wärtsilä say that the necessary technology can be retrofitted in just 30 hours with minimal inconvenience. They anticipated that the technology can be used for a range of functions including automated docking and even ‘smart ports’.

This is undoubtedly an impressive technological achievement and it illustrates again how quickly new technology is being seized on by the energy industry to improve efficiency and reduce cost. For underwriters, however, these advances are a further reminder that cyber risk is now an integral part of all insurance, whether it is hull and machinery or liability cover. Although Wärtsilä has indicated that it is aware of the cyber security implications of these developments, one cannot discount the possibility that these systems may be attacked or become subject to some other cyber event. It is important, therefore, that underwriters ensure that this is reflected in their policy wordings in their risk assessment.

Simon Cooper