Unmanned ships could potentially offer 40%+ operational savings, whilst enabling more cargo to be carried, providing a major advantage for ship operators who invest in them.
Crucially, it is also suggested that these ships will not just be as safe as those with experienced crew, but even safer.
Is this the future of shipping?
Do ship operators really understand how close to a reality the technology required for an unmanned ship is?
Do the efficiencies and savings stack up? What broader connectivity and technology infrastructure will the first unmanned operators need?
Are regulators and insurers moving fast enough to keep up with the technology?
And what will unmanned ships mean for the jobs, lives and skillsets of seafarers in the future?
Or is all that a distraction from the real value autonomous ships bring as part of a tightly integrated ‘blue logistics’ channel?
Projecting how widespread unmanned shipping will be in 15 or 20 years misses the point.
The real disruption that digital will bring is ships tightly integrated into the global blue logistics system which the roundtable participants began to plan out in Aalesund.
Capturing the opportunity requires a fundamental understanding of the far wider disruption at play, and those who fail to grasp it will end up arguing the relative merits of manned versus unmanned, as the industry around them transforms into something unrecognisable.
This high-level roundtable sought to tackle some of those issues and explore how autonomy will impact the maritime industry in the short and longer term.