January 23, 2019

SO MUCH FOR RUM, SODOMY AND THE LASH:

THE FUTURE OF MARITIME TRADE? UNMANNED SHIPS (Maroosha Muzaffar, 1/20/19, OZY)

In September 2017, two Norwegian firms, Yara and Kongsberg, announced plans to build the world's first fully electric and autonomous container ship, the Yara Birkeland, by 2020. In 2018, Kongsberg teamed with another Norwegian firm, Wilhelmsen, to form the world's first shipping company dedicated to autonomous vessels. In November, the ferry Folgefonn, also from Norway, underwent successful auto-docking, undocking and dock-to-dock tests, all controlled remotely, demonstrating how autonomously ships of the future might function, even when in port.

In the Netherlands, a consortium of 20 maritime businesses launched a project in December to study and demonstrate the potential of autonomous maritime transport. In Germany, the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services is designing a remote-control tugboat that could help large, manned ships dock and undock. And the European Commission is co-sponsoring a collaborative project called MUNIN (Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks) that's developing technology for unmanned vessels.

China's Maritime Safety Administration and Wuhan University of Technology are developing uncrewed multifunctional maritime ships, the country's latest step in developing advanced transport solutions. And British automobile giant Rolls-Royce plans to build a remotely operated local vessel by 2020. By 2035, the company aims to launch autonomous, unmanned oceangoing ships.

These plans are altering the face of shipping, shaped for centuries by sailors and explorers whose actions formed the bedrock of trade and transport. But increasingly, say observers and industry insiders, autonomous, unmanned commercial ships represent an unavoidable future -- one where human errors can be avoided, financial margins improved because of fewer wages and lower fuel costs for lighter vessels, and the impact on the environment reduced.

"The magnitude of cost-saving potential [when it comes to autonomous and unmanned vessels] is huge," says Oskar Levander, senior vice president of concepts and innovation at Rolls-Royce Marine.

Lives can also be saved with unmanned ships. According to insurance company Allianz, 2,712 people died because of maritime accidents in 2017. In all, 94 ships were lost that year to accidents; 1,129 have been lost over the past decade. "One of the main advantages of unmanned vehicles is that it allows for operations that do not put human lives at risk," says Richard V. Lawson, CEO of the Washington-based International Ocean Science and Technology Industry Association.

Posted by at January 23, 2019 7:02 PM

  

« A SIMPLE GOD IS MORE COMFORTING BUT LESS INTERESTING: | Main | IT'S LIKE HAVING JIMMY CARTER BACK IN OFFICE, LOSING TO IRAN: »