Autonomous Boat Tech Will Change Shipping

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Autonomous Boats: How They Will Change Shipping

The notion of an autonomous ship can seem a little like something out of a science-fiction movie or a kid’s made-up fantasy game, but in 2019 it is a very real, tangible reality in the shipping trade.

The first ever mention of the possibility of such a thing was noted in ‘Ships and Shipping of Tomorrow’, a book published by Rolf Schonknecht in 1970. Now, a scant 50 years later (which is a blink of an eye if you take into account that ocean-faring has been around for aeons!), Yara International ASA and technology company Kongsberg are getting ready to launch the world’s first autonomous and zero-emission container vessel, the Yara Birkeland, in 2020. What a time to be alive!

Here are a few ways in which autonomous technology is set to alter the current shipping landscape:

Commercial Viability Will Increase

The main benefit of automated shipping is the reduction of overall running costs, which will allow shipping companies to ply their trade at a more affordable rate, thereby boosting trade around the globe. However, even though the boats are unmanned, their vital functions will be controlled from shore, so the job market will not be affected too severely.

Overall Efficiency Will Improve

Enhanced systems like autopilot, anti-collision radars and built-in navigation systems will increase overall efficiency and bring ships to their intended destinations on a more manageable timeline. By leaving the precision tasks to the machines, human operators will be able to focus on strategic planning, which requires creativity and ingenuity.

Navigation Will Move To Land

While there is still a lot of water that needs to flow into the sea before all ships on the ocean will be fully automated, there will definitely be a shift in terms of employment in the shipping trade. Boat operators will now be able to navigate boats from the comfort of their office, albeit only for short distances at the moment. This will also eventually mean that seamen will no longer need to risk their lives on notoriously dangerous routes along known pirating shores, etc.

Fascinating right? And this is just the beginning – autonomous technology is developing at a rapid clip, so the remote shipping landscape could look a lot different this time next year. Keep an eye on the blog in the coming weeks and months as we share the latest developments on the shipping front. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to the Link Ship Chandlers team if you would like to find out more about our marine safety equipment and maritime supply services at Cape Town, Saldanha, Port Elizabeth, Coega, Durban and Richards Bay.


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