4 Ways Autonomous Ships Can “Save” the Shipping Industry

Jan 25, 2018Supply Chain Management


While self-driving cars seem to be the latest technology buzz on everyone’s mind, even more likely to make a break into the market sooner rather than later are autonomous ships. These ships are no longer just a pipe-dream as numerous companies and organizations are undertaking the design and implementation of this technology.

With so many organizations working to put this technology into place, these futuristic vehicles could make their way into the industry in 10-15 years time and could “save” the industry in many ways.

While there are obvious challenges associated with the introduction of ships sailing the ocean without a captain or crew, these are the ways autonomous vehicles could save the shipping industry money, time, and more.

From Piracy: 

While reports of maritime piracy continued to decline in 2017, the second half of the year did show a total of 87 incidents reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Unmanned ships could cut back on these numbers even more as an unmanned ship is significantly less appealing to pirates. When there is no crew, there is no crew to hold ransom.

If those with ill intent do try to board an unmanned vessel, the design of these ships will make it difficult. If they were to make it on board, they would have no access to controls and the computer powering the ship could take over and either change course, drive in a circle until help arrived, or shut down.


Autonomous ships will not only be a game-changer when it comes to safety, but to budgets as well. Once these ships hit the ocean, they can save money on fuel and pack more cargo for more productive trips. With no crew on board, certain aspects of the ship’s design, like crew quarters and sewage systems, can be removed to create more cargo space.

Their sleek designs cut back on wind resistance allowing them to move faster through the water. These changes will cut construction costs, reduce operating costs and make for more efficient trips.

From a Talent Shortage: 

As technological-savvy millennials enter the workforce, they are attracted to digitally-geared jobs. Seafaring as a career, spending weeks or months away from homes and families, is becoming less appealing but powering these massive machines from home through electronic and digital systems are the careers that will appeal to the incoming generations.

From Accidents:

In a report published by the Munich-based insurance company Allianz in 2012, between 75 and 96 percent of marine accidents are caused by human error. A vessel not operated by humans will cut back on these errors and hopefully on accidents.

While there will be regulatory and operating challenges to face, these ships present numerous opportunities to an ever-changing industry.

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