Australian miners are pushing freight transport in an autonomous direction. With driverless trucks already in operation and autonomous trains set to launch soon, attention is now turning to ships.
BHP Billiton has made clear it wants ships to follow other modes of transport in adopting autonomous technology.
“Safe and efficient autonomous vessels carrying BHP cargo, powered by BHP gas, is our vision for the future of dry bulk shipping,” BHP’s vice president of freight, Rashpal Bhatti, wrote in a posting on its website. He said that future could manifest within a decade.
Bhatti said BHP is seeking partners to work on technological changes in the sector.
Fellow miner Rio Tinto already uses a fleet of 76 driverless trucks and will fully deploy autonomous trains in Western Australia by the end of next year. Chris Salisbury, Rio Tinto’s top iron ore executive, spoke about shipping’s need for greater innovation at a conference in Perth last month.
Fortescue Metals Group, meanwhile, has taken on more than 50 autonomous trucks while also pioneering autonomous drilling at some of its mines in Australia.
The issue of autonomous ships is due to be discussed at the IMO today.