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Norway To Launch World's First Automated Container Ship In 2018

By Jonathan Webb / / July 26th, 2017


The world’s first automated container ship is currently being developed by shipping company Yara in partnership with Kongsberg, a maritime engineering group. Their ship ‘Yara Birkeland’ is set to launch in 2018.

The boat’s capacity will exceed 100 containers.

Although the project is scheduled to be completed in 2018, a phased period of a partially crew-operated service will continue until 2019. By 2020, the ship will be entirely automated and the bridge will be brought on land.

Once the vessel enters this phase, it is expected that it will save 90% in costs through salary savings. It also has the potential to deliver substantial environmental costs.

The boat has also been termed ‘the Tesla of the Seas’ because of its battery-operated engines. The firms believe that the craft will save 40,000 journeys a year in terms of carbon emissions.

Norway has already gone some way to solve the easier problem of automated ferries. In January 2018, the country will open its first computer-operated ferry lanes, between Anda and Lote. The ferries will also be 100% battery powered, reducing carbon emissions to zero.

A captain will be present upon the ship, supervising the journey and taking control of the final docking manoeuvres.

The potential for automated logistics is enormous. Crafts continually navigate the world on the ocean’s shipping lanes. The job of piloting these vessels can be dull, leading to stressful working conditions for the crew. In potentially more engaging activities, specialized pilots are brought in to navigate the ship and crew through challenging straights. The long ocean-bound routes are generally undemanding and perhaps ripe for automation. In this regard, moving shipping containers may be considered similar to operating rail freight, as a job that is generally procedural and predictable.

That said, ships, unlike trains, do no operate in a closed environment. The open seas are an unpredictable and even dangerous place. Only recently, we have seen an uptick of piracy along the Somali coastline. An unmanned boat may be an even more tempting proposition to disparate pirates along the lawless fringes of shipping lanes.

As such, it appears that the current routes taken by these crafts will be relatively short hauls, traversing in politically stable routes. Over the longer term, we may see more varied solutions. As with pilots, security services can be flown in during the short duration of the dangerous zones. Alternatively, the lack of potential hostages may even reduce the interest in targeting these craft.

Further into the future, say in twenty to thirty years, we may see the global supply chain entirely automated. Once the major operators, such as Maersk, see that automated shipping is a safe and efficient means through which deliveries can be made, we can expect to see rapid and significant investment.

Once these automated vessels lower costs, we may see an entire industry transformed within a few decades. - 24/7 Support including Chat
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