In June, Rolls-Royce and Svitzer demonstrated the world’s first remotely operated commercial vessel in Copenhagen harbor, Denmark, and last month, a platform supply vessel was successfully put through a sequence of maneuvers in the North Sea under remote control from a Wärtsilä office located in San Diego, California, some 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) away.
The companies' vision for autonomous shipping is part of a wave of enthusiasm and research around the world, but there is also a backlash.
The Maritime Union of Australia has come out saying “those representing the workers in the transport industry question both the productivity and economics of automated ships and ports.”
Speaking after the opening the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) office in Singapore on September 6, President Paddy Crumlin and General Secretary Stephen Cotton described the push for automation as a “marketing rush” where the consequences have not been thought through.
“Automation shouldn’t be a replacement for good industrial relations. It shouldn’t be used as a form of union busting which it sometimes is. It is also being used as a marketing tool that hasn’t got a practical or productive consequence,” said Crumlin....MORE
While Crumlin accepted the technology existed, the risks and governance related to autonomous shipping remains ill-defined, he says. “No one’s going to rush in without all those risks being defined and a governance framework so they know who they are going to sue if it does go wrong. “I don’t think there’s been a balanced conversation, because it's the big new, bright thing.”
Crumlin also said: “Robots don’t pay tax.”...
Related in July's "Norway Takes Lead in Race to Build Autonomous Cargo Ships"
...Shipping executives say autonomous vessels will be popular for short sea routes, but doubt they will replace oceangoing ships that move thousands of containers across continents with an average crew size of around 25.Also:
“It’s not a matter of technology, which is already there, but a business case,” said Lars Jensen, chief executive of SeaIntelligence Consulting in Copenhagen. “Autonomous ships are expensive to begin with, and have to be built very robust, because if they break down, the cost of getting a team to fix them it in the middle of the ocean will be very high.”...
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