Ships by 2030 could run by themselves, study finds

Ships by 2030 will be able to run by themselves, even if the regulatory side is not in place to allow for unmanned vessels, a new report from three British institutions has claimed.

Global Marine Technology Trends 2030, a detailed study by class society Lloyd’s Register, the University of Southampton and tech firm Qinetiq, suggests that ships 15 years from now will be able to run from ashore, with significant robotic help at sea.

Smart ships, LR’s global strategic marketing manager Luis Benito said at a press conference at the start of London International Shipping Week today, will be “less and less human dependent”. Next generation vessels will be very highly automated to the point whereby, Benito said, “a ship could basically be self-run”.

Vessels will become hybrid flexible, Benito said, explaining that they could run on type of fuel or another.

The use of advanced materials in building ships will make them much lighter so that they will use less fuel. They will need less maintenance too, thanks to sensors being installed across the ship. Robots may well be used to survey harder to reach parts of a vessel, Benito said.

Much of the new technology will come from big data analytics, the report suggested – applying algorithms to understand trends.

Satellite technology will have to develop to be able to allow all data onboard to be able to analysed onshore, Benito said, so that people ashore run the ship as much as those onboard.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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