All [Robot] Hands on Deck!

❝ Autonomous ships will be great. Doing away with sailors will make the high seas safer and cleaner.

No humans neededGlyn Kirk/AFP

❝ It sounds like a ghost story: A huge cargo vessel sails up and down the Norwegian coast, silently going about its business, without a captain or crew in sight. But if all goes as planned, it’s actually the future of shipping.

❝ Last week, Kongsberg Gruppen ASA, a Norwegian maritime-technology firm, and Yara ASA, a fertilizer manufacturer, announced a partnership to build the world’s first fully autonomous cargo containership. Manned voyages will start in 2018, and in 2020 the Yara Birkeland will set sail all on its own. It’s the beginning of a revolution that should transform one of the world’s oldest and most conservative industries — and make global shipping safer, faster and cleaner than it’s ever been…

By one consultant’s estimate, moreover, carrying sailors accounts for 44 percent of a ship’s costs. That’s not just salaries: crew quarters, air-conditioning units, a bridge (which typically requires heavy ballast to ensure a ship’s balance) and other amenities take up valuable weight and space that might otherwise be used for cargo. And that dead weight contributes to a bigger problem: Maritime shipping accounts for about 2.5 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions. Barring a radical change, those emissions are set to surge in the decades ahead.

❝ All this explains why eliminating a crew and its costs has been a long-time goal for companies and governments around the world. The most advanced effort so far has come from Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, which rolled out a virtual-reality prototype of an autonomous ship in 2014. According to the company, the ship will be 5 percent lighter, and burn up to 15 percent less fuel, than a comparable vessel with humans aboard.

All the questions required of industries capable of full automation, essential automation, apply. They must begin with what is to be done to aid the human beings made redundant by the qualitative change which – after all – makes this industry more profitable, less expensive to operate?

The capitalists of Europe will probably follow guidance from enlightened geopolitical segments within their borders. Nations with at least a social-democratic bent. I would expect the same from China and those Asian nations with the courage to follow…perhaps, even lead.

Here in the United States? Silly question, eh? We live in a nation led by a political caste almost completely under the control of the least caring profiteers in the world. Short-sighted and arrogant, they really don’t care a rat’s ass about anyone fitting the broadest definition of proletarian. If you don’t own industry, you shall be politically subservient. From church to Congress, the Free Press to teachers who think they’re a 19th Century guild, obedience is the construct that counts. And Americans are, if anything, obedient cogs in the economy.

5 thoughts on “All [Robot] Hands on Deck!

  1. Buffer says:

    Today an estimated 30,000 vessels globally have some sort of access to always-on Internet via satellite. At the same time, a mix of increasingly sophisticated equipment – from electronic navigation systems to computer-controlled engines – is finding its way on board modern tonnage. This means ships can no longer be considered protected by an air-gap from cyber threats.

  2. Hazelwood says:

    “Japan’s largest container line plans to test a remote-controlled vessel across the Pacific Ocean in 2019 as it pursues fully autonomous technology that could disrupt the global shipping industry.” “Nippon Yusen K.K. is considering using a large container ship for the test from Japan to North America and a crew will be on standby for safe operations, Hideyuki Ando, a senior general manager at Monohakobi Technology Institute, said in an interview Wednesday. The institute, a unit of Nippon Yusen, conducts research and development in areas such as safe vessel operation, energy saving, and logistics.
    The Tokyo-based cargo carrier is joining a list of companies worldwide working to develop vessels without sailors that may help the $334 billion global shipping industry cut costs and boost safety. The technology may help eliminate human errors that are responsible for a vast majority of all marine casualties.”

  3. Press release says:

    Re: Maritime fuel efficiency and global greenhouse-gas emissions. “Ship exhaust makes oceanic thunderstorms more intense” (American Geophysical Union) A new study mapping lightning around the globe finds evidence that aerosol particles emitted in ship exhaust are changing how storm clouds form over the ocean. The new study is the first to show ship exhaust can alter thunderstorm intensity. The researchers conclude that particles from ship exhaust make cloud droplets smaller, lifting them higher in the atmosphere. This creates more ice particles and leads to more lightning. “It’s one of the clearest examples of how humans are actually changing the intensity of storm processes on Earth through the emission of particulates from combustion,” said Joel Thornton, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle and lead author of the new study in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
    “Lightning Enhancement Over Major Oceanic Shipping Lanes”

  4. Roomba says:

    “Finnish technology group Wärtsilä says it has successfully tested the fully autonomous operation of a ferry on a route in Norway in what is believed to be the first ever attempt at fully automated dock-to-dock operation for a vessel of this size.
    The test of Wärtsilä’s autonomous shipping technology was conducted utilizing the 85-meter ferry Folgefonn and in the presence of the Norwegian Maritime Authority.
    Wärtsilä says that during the test, the Folgefonn was under full autonomous operation, with no human intervention, as it visited three different ports.”

  5. Ahoy says:

    “Abandoned: The seafarers stuck at sea for two years”
    As many as 200,000 seafarers have been left abandoned on their vessels has risen during the pandemic as shipping companies turn a blind eye.”
    Under the Maritime Labor Convention, seafarers are deemed to have been abandoned if their shipowner cuts contact or leaves the ship without maintenance or support and the crew without pay and repatriation.
    “At the height of the pandemic, about 400,000 seafarers were stranded on ships worldwide due to COVID restrictions. At least 20,000 crew members have now been vaccinated in 72 American cities”

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