Stanley Yacht Services: Unmanned Container Ships?Rolls-Royce Recommends Robo-Ships

Monday, July 21, 2014

Unmanned Container Ships?
Rolls-Royce Recommends Robo-Ships

Crewless Ship Concept Design
[Rolls-Royce]
You may have noticed the latest technology trend: unmanned machines. There is a noticeable decline in the need for the physical presence of humans to operate everything from supermarket cash registers (self check-outs) to bank ATMs. More recently, Amazon has proposed delivery drones and Google unveiled its driverless cars. And now, Rolls-Royce has revealed its vision of crewless cargo ships.

According to Oskar Levandar, vice-president of innovation, engineering and technology at Rolls-Royce, the shipping industry could benefit in a number of ways if unmanned vessels were operated from a remote control center. Among other incentives, Levandar suggests the absence of an on-board crew would lead to lower fuel consumption, increased cargo storage space, and piracy deterrence (as there would be no available hostages).

Empty Helm Chairs?
[Photo | Getty Images]
Needless to say, this crewless cargo ship concept has been met with skepticism by others in the maritime industry. And these concerns, including technology failure, are not without merit. We all know computers crash and screens freeze. Then there's always the threat of operator error or GIGO (garbage in, garbage out).

Furthermore, leaving all operations under the control of computers and remote cameras may simply invite a different type of piracy: hacking. Today's "pirates" may be more interested in re-routing the shipment than taking human hostages. It seems that theft may be easier to accomplish in the absence of a captain at the helm with the ability to manually override navigational commands from a computer.

While Levandar predicts the advent of unmanned cargo ships within the next decade, it remains to be seen whether maritime regulatory agencies would even approve the proposal. In the interim ...

What are your thoughts?

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