Automation in the Shipping Industry: Future of Merchant Navy

A prototype of an Autonomous ship by Konsberg Maritime

Technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been finding it’s place in all spheres of the mankind. The Shipping Industry is definitely no exception!

Beneficiaries of these technological advancements include remotely controlled vessels, piloted by humans onshore and autonomous ships.

Rolls-Royce is working upon development of autonomous technologies in the Maritime Industry. They aim to achieve their ultimate goal of autonomous ships travelling in the international waters by the year 2025. They even expect full automation of the shipping industry by the year 2035!

Rolls-Royce is just one of many companies, who are working tirelessly in achieving automation in the shipping industry.

Automation undoubtedly has the potential to change the shipping industry, forever.

Benefits of Automation?

Automation holds the potential to drastically reduce human errors, thus maximizing productivity. Human errors have played a key role in majority of accidents in the shipping industry.

Many believe automation would be ‘safer’ for humans, as it reduces the risk of lives at the high seas.

It would drastically reduce the cost incurred in the mantainance and welfare of the crew, which includes air conditioning units, crew quarters, large ballasts and other such amenities. Which in-turn aims to cut down fuel expenses too.

Some believe that automation could help to reduce piracy at the seas. As, the point of interaction between ships and pirates have been removed, it is, the crew.

Downsides of Automation?

The downsides of Automation is a lot more severe than the potential benefits it holds.

Before talking about the devastating loss of jobs, let us first talk about some other downsides.

Automation would require the development of costly shoreside infrastructural systems across the globe. For monitoring, control, development and reparing services. These services are currently handled by low cost labourers.

There are doubts regarding the potential of automation to fully replace human skills.

Image Credit: Alejandra Sarmiento / VentureBeat

The risk of piracy could actually increase, as most of the pirates these days are engaging in a cyber warfare. Also, lack of human intelligence in handling pirate attacks at the high seas is definitely not recommended.

The development of infrastructure, to fecilitate automation, involves a lot of money, resources and manpower.

There are millions of lives, dependant upon the shipping industry. Automation of this industry would result in a tremendous loss of jobs, and livelihood of people across the world.

Conclusion. The future of the shipping industry?

With highly ambitious projects on the verge of completion, the world awaits to witness the potential of automation of the shipping industry. Though the future of automation is highly controversial, the issue of the loss of jobs is totally not negligible, and must be looked upon.

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