Photo Credit: U.S.Navy
MORE THAN TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO WHILE ATTENDING MARAD'S LORAN A SCHOOL WE WERE TOLD THAT THE DRONE SHIP WAS TECHNOLOGICALLY POSSIBLE EVEN THEN. BUT WE WERE ALSO TOLD THAT PIRACY / CARGO SECURITY WAS THE MAIN OBSTACLE TO CREW REMOVAL. PIRACY IN SOMALIA HADN'T BROKEN OUT AT THAT TIME.
American Admiralty Books Safety & Privacy Policies EU VISITORS WARNING POSSIBLE COOKIES AHEAD
Now referred to as the "autonomous ship" the concept is back in the discussion mode among ship management and insurance groups. The concept is being driven by the evolution of navigation and ship control technology. Today fully manned ships are having more and more functions managed by on board computers. Some on board computer functions can send and receive data from shore based managers and even be programed or operated from ashore. Other labor saving developments such as more durable paint, self service galleys, unmanned engine rooms have so reduced crew size that the operating crew no longer offers much in the way of physical security for large ships. Pirates frequently get aboard unnoticed until it is too late. Ships that once required crews of 35 merchant mariners to operate now routinely operate with crews of 12 with only 4 on watch at any given time.
PD: Bridge of the OLYMPIC, SISTER SHIP OF TITANIC Fully manual analogue navigation bridge
Reports of various conferences on the subject in various maritime trade journals that we monitor paint a picture of a seemingly inevitable evolution towards the unmanned "autonomous" ship. The evolution begins with a change in the nature of mariner duties from operating to monitoring/operating manual back ups in an emergency. Given present international standards of watch keeping we don't see a reduction beyond a 4 man 3 watch system before the end of this century despite assurances that the necessary technology for the "autonomous" or "drone" large commercial cargo carrier is already available. The apparent consensus of opinion on the continuing evolution towards the "autonomous unmanned ship appears to go something like this: