The implication of automating ships.

in StemSocial2 months ago


Autonomous cargo ships are by some in the shipping industry viewed as the next logical step within maritime shipping, noting the general trend of automating tasks and reducing crew on ships, according to Batalde, Bjorn-Morten, Leikanger, Per, Wide, and Peter (2017). The future of maritime industry is now viewed to have a large impact from transporting goods to passengers, and seafarers itself. It is a major plan that is in accord on the advancement of technology.

Going back, Maritime Industry is beset for having huge contribution on most country’s economy. According to Raunek (2021), 90% of the world’s food, fuel, raw material and manufactured goods are delivered by sea. Nearly all things sold worldwide are transported through ships, he added. It can’t be achieved without the help of our skilled seafarers who operate, maintain, and repair of all mechanical equipment on ship both when in voyage and when in dock.

Taking a glimpse in history, Viking Longships were used to raid and trade with other countries. According to RMG (2021), Viking longships had one square sail made of wool, raw of oars on each side, and steering oar at the back on the right-hand side. Shell was built with overlapping planks, he added. It really showed us that long time ago without technology, longships were already used with the help and care of our seafarers. Until there is the advancement of technology, and now come up with a fully automated sea-going vessel unarmed. Now, what if automation in ship will be apply on the future? How about the job of all seafarers?


As we all know, seafarers already risk their lives working on sea just only to ensure that all goods and other supply will be delivered safely even if their own lives as a stake. Several ships sink each year because of storms and rough weather, but that doesn’t scare a seafarer, according again to Raumek (2021). Despite all of these risks, seafarers still managed to overcome and go back again on ship to work and give his/her family a better and stable life.

If automation in ship will be achieved on nearly future, it will draw a lot of changes from transporting goods and other services up to the work of seafarers. The debate on automated ships sees both pros and cons. The advantages of autonomous ships are plentiful and this includes:

  1. Eliminating human error. Human error has been classified as the number one reason of a missing seafarer and other related accidents on board. Stated by Maritime Journal (2017), human error has been long regarded as a major cause of incidents in which estimated 75% to 96% of marine accidents are attributed to human error in shipping sector. Achieving automation can help eliminate human error and minimize accidents related to it;

  2. Reduce crewing cost. As expected, maritime industry has the highest crewing cost of all other occupation of both land and sea-based work. With the use of automated (unmanned) sea-going vessel can help reduce crewing cost; and

  3. Increase safety of life. According to lbn, Aawal, and Hasegawa (2017), the most notable ship accident that lost thousands of lives would be the Titanic in 1912, Deep Water Horizon in 2010, and Costa Concordia in 2012. Titanic in 1912 was sunk after hitting an iceberg, Deep Horizon in 2010 capsized because of an explosion due to oil spill in an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, while Costa Concordia in 2012 capsized and later sank after striking an underwater rock off Isola del Giglio. Thus, automation is applied since ship will be unarmed, which increase safety of crews, and passengers.

Despite of these advantages the operational savings also lies certain disadvantages, this includes:

  1. Millions of seafarers will lose their job. According to Rick (2015), job cuts would directly affect the 610,00 officers in the currently estimated supply work force which caused by reduction of seafarers. In addition, if automation will be slipped on future It will result to the increase of jobless people;

  2. Unknown Safety Risks. Current machines are unable to replicate the human element (i.e., experience and reaction) of professional seafarers; and

  3. Vulnerability to computer hackers and hijacking control. Computer based cargo-vessels will be more vulnerable to hackers and even hijacking since it will take computer, and hacker to hijack container. It definitely doesn’t look good.


As the world is till in progress, so as the advancement of technology that leads to the innovation and the creation of new ideas as well as new things. It can bee seen on most autonomous ship that is now being ran especially in Japan. How prepared the world about this advancement? Well, most port in every country is now preparing for this new advancement in shipping management. For remote vessel operation, ports will need to analyze and maybe make adjustments to their current quays and channels, as well as new communications infrastructure and onshore infrastructure. Though not all port is ready to face this new innovation, but the International Maritime Organization are doing their best to help ports in every country to welcome the arrival of this automated (unmanned) ship.

As for the government, certain countries are now preparing their government for the risk of jobless rate that may increase when this project will happen to nearly future. Preemptive measures to establish new business prospects utilizing ICT technology are required to ensure that the marine sector grows sustainably in a new business ecosystem. This actively illustrates that, government should create new opportunities regarding in ICT so that when the said project may happen and seafarers will not be able to work anymore, at least they still have the source of their income.

Every one of us are new this, but Maritime Industry is always looking for an innovative, less risk, hassle free and that came up from this advancement of shipping management. On the implications of this project, poses also a great responsibility. With this new advancement of technology are you ready for this change? To the seafarers are you ready to the impact of this on your profession?


  1. Port Autonomous Shipping

  2. Safety Risk Analysis of Unmanned Ships in Inland Rivers Based on a Fuzzy Bayesian Network

  3. Automation for the Maritime Industry

  4. Automated control system with process of the use of ship's power station

  5. "PREParE SHIPS" for Automated Ship Passages by Modern Decision Support Tools by Exchanging Future Positions

  6. Next generation unmanned short sea cargo ship

Photo Credit: Wikimedia


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