Maritime firms question their future role with robotic ships
AUTONOMOUS shipping is slowly gaining greater attention in the maritime industry with some saying its pose an existential threat to the industry
AUTONOMOUS shipping is slowly gaining greater attention in the maritime industry with some saying its pose an existential threat to the industry.
An increasing number of industry players are beginning to ask how they will fit in with what may be the future of ocean freight.
Norwegian fertiliser manufacturer Yara International is a year away from testing and operating a fully autonomous containership, the Birkeland, reports New York's FreightWaves.
With just 120 TEU of container capacity, the Birkeland is hardly a threat to the container shipping industry. The Birkeland will operate between coastal seaports spanning a top distance of only 30 nautical miles. Even then, it is expected to have a crew onboard initially for safety purposes.
But the development of autonomous shipping does represent a power shift toward cargo owners, who can own and operate their own assets and not rely on third-party fleets.
And the momentum for autonomous shipping is growing. One Sea, a consortium of Scandinavian maritime and technology companies, expects autonomous shipping could be in commercial use by 2025.
One Sea, whose current members include Ericsson, ABB, and Wartsila, also ran their own trials of autonomous ships last year. Finland has given the consortium an area off its coast to test autonomous shipping.
The company recently also announced that satellite service provider Inmarsat signed on as a member as well as UK-based Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA) and the research subsidiary of Japan's NYK Group.
NYK itself is part of a national consortium that plans to demonstrate an autonomous tugboat in the latter half of 2019. But NYK is also said to be looking at the more ambitious project of an autonomous container ship transiting the Pacific Ocean.
Maritime classification society DNV said it completed a project with marine engineering firm Hoglund and Norwegian ferry operator Fjord1 on developing a remote monitoring and control system for onboard propulsion and systems.
Of course, technology advances faster than regulation. For autonomous shipping to become a real factor in the market, it will have to be regulated through the UN's International Maritime Organisation (IMO).