Container cargo ships or drones on water as they are also referred to are forecasted by analysts to be in operation over the next 10 to 15 years.
The development is being made possible by the emergence of advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality and big data and through the continued digitisation of the supply chain that PayCargo is a big part of.
The thinking is that these highly automated ships will track freight movement across the global supply chain, enabling better levels of visibility for shippers about their shipments.
These will be operated by 10-person command centers that can manage about 50-100 ships at a time, rather than a single vessel being operated by a 15 strong crew.
Autonomous container cargo ships will help the shipping industry improve its efficiency, reliability, safety and sustainability through electrically power vessels, while reducing operating costs – as no crew will need to man ships and also potentially lead to a fall in the number of cargo thefts and lost freight.
The development will also help address problems with port congestion, as using digital tools will speed up the flow of shipments and help make processes more transparent and improve the visibility of cargo in the supply chain.
Part of the thinking is that by using advanced technologies, data produced by the shipping industry can be turned into insightful information such as real-time findings and alerts which can help then reduce accidents.
Accidents are too common in the oceans and various research has found human error is a leading cause of marine accidents, and according to an Allianz study, is responsible for between 75% and 96% of marine casualties and driverless vessels could reduce the number of accidents and so improve operational efficiency.
It seems autonomous container cargo ships are not too far off to being launched to the global fleets of shipping companies as there have been various trials.
In December 2018, Rolls-Royce demonstrated the world’s first fully autonomous ferry on a trip in Finland and says it plans to introduce self-guided cargo ships to the world’s seas by 2025.
In March 2019, autonomous operational trials were held in the North Sea off the Netherlands by The Dutch Joint Industry Project, while Norwegian shipbuilder VARD is set to launch an autonomous container vessel in 2022, China is testing ships in a specially designated zone and Japanese shipping lines have formed a consortium to build remote-control cargo ships by 2025.
In April 2019, Kongsberg Maritime completed the acquisition of Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine (RRCM) and the integration is set to drive maritime digitalization, ship intelligence and enabling technologies for autonomous vessels.