Future of ships


Kotug is already thinking safety:

What say you assist tug members to this idea??
Could it ever be implemented on US tugs, or be shot down by Unions and/or Maritime and Port Authorities??


From Tradewinds

"Time may be right to look again at nuclear-powered boxships
Environmental pressure to reduce emissions could pave the way for faster containerships to replace mega-vessels where cargo values are high, report argues
December 21st, 2017 17:00 GMT
by Paul Berrill

Pressure to slash emissions has led Norwegian researchers to re-examine the feasibility of nuclear-powered merchant ships.

High building and decommissioning costs, plus issues of political and social acceptance, remain major obstacles, according to Halvor Schoyen, associate professor of maritime logistics at the University College of Southeast Norway — but there could be niche roles for high-speed vessels carrying high-value cargoes.

Schoyen and co-author Kenn Steger-Jensen of Aalborg University in Denmark point to the possibility of a slow-steaming 20,000-teu Triple-E containership being replaced by a 35-knot, 270-megawatt nuclear boxship with a capacity of 9,200 teu.

But the limitations are still huge, as they point out in a research article, “Nuclear propulsion in ocean merchant shipping: The role of historical experiments to gain insight into possible future applications”, published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Four experimental ships were built in the 1960s to 1980s, when it was estimated the upfront cost for a commercial ship’s nuclear propulsion plant was seven times that of an oil-fired engine of equivalent horsepower — and this would double or triple the overall price.

A cost increase of two to 2.5 times was estimated by class society DNV in 2010, which added that price calculations remained “highly uncertain”.

Maintenance, repair, manning, insurance and security costs are also likely to be higher for a nuclear vessel, the report says, but fuel costs could be lower.

The Savannah travelled 450,000 nautical miles in 10 years on nuclear power, with one refuelling, before ending service. It is currently in Baltimore, where it is set to be converted into a museum.
The Otto Hahn sailed 650,000 miles in nine years on nuclear power, using two fuel cores. Each refuelling took about 10 weeks. Its reactor was decommissioned in 1979 and the ship scrapped in 2009.
The Mutsu’s total project cost was put at $1.2bn after the reactor was decommissioned in 1995. Converted into an ocean-observation ship with a diesel engine, it is still in service as the Mirai.
The Sevmorput and its reactor are reported to have operated for more than 20 years without major incidents, although the ship was laid up for a decade in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
However, uncertainty about refuelling intervals and time taken out of service, plus the high cost of decommissioning, are problematic for any owner other than a national government.

The first three maritime nuclear vessels — the US Maritime Administration’s passenger-freight ship Savannah (built 1961), West German state company GKSS’ Otto Hahn (built 1964) and the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute’s Mutsu (built 1970) — were unable to carry containers.

“These three experimental nuclear ships failed to prosper commercially with respect to freight service, due to high ship-operating expenses and unsuitable mission selection linked to routes and cargoes,” the report says.

The fourth vessel, the USSR’s Sevmorput (built 1986), was constructed for commercial operations in remote Arctic waters.

All four encountered political opposition, with the Savannah barred from ports in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, the Otto Hahn denied passage through the Suez Canal and Dutch ports, and the Mutsu even excluded from its home port after its reactor started to leak fast neutrons on its maiden voyage in 1974.

But the issue of emissions opens up possibilities.

About 886 containerships above 5,000 teu, on average, are slow-steaming at 17.2 knots, emitting about 81.7 million tonnes of CO2 per year, or 40% of the global annual boxship output. The report argues: “Nuclear-powered high speeds and smaller ship size could possibly serve shippers’ demands in a market niche for fast-moving, high-value cargo ocean transport service.”


Noted without comment:





Ouch! Let the leapfrogging begin.


So… don’t put a sticker of a tie-dyed toaster on the side of a ship or a Norwegian autonomous ferry might think it’s a banana?


Unless it’s in your financial or political interest to make an autonomous ferry think the ship – or more likely a reef – is a banana :wink:

The interesting part of the paper was how easy it was.




Why would anybody put such stickers on their ship?
If it is to confuse any autonomous vessels in the vicinity to believe your ship is a banana, good luck.
I believe autonomous ships will be programed not to ram anything, including bananas.
If they are not, why would you want to get rammed?


Sevmorput was commissioned two years after the Chernobyl disaster. While she’s been laid up for long times, that wasn’t until the late 1990s and in the 2000s…


Oh, sigh. The paper documents how easy it is to spoof the pattern recognition algorithms used by these systems. That’s of interest to people with malicious intent. Very relevant to autonomous automobiles (e.g., a sticker that converts a stop sign into a banana) probably much less so for ships.

It is another example of the inherent limitations of what could be called “observational” sensor suites, those that look at naturally occurring inputs (ambient light) or returning “pings” from a transmitter (radar, lidar, sonar).

If you look at airborne collision avoidance systems, with one exception they all rely on active emitters, either a transmitter that squawks position periodically or transponders that squawk in response to being “painted” by an observational sensor. The only exception is ground proximity radar, which is tasked with detecting an object the size of the earth.

I’m quite sure the autonomous ship people will eventually end up in the same place, hopefully not through one or more casualties.

(As an aside, the need to have an active environment (transponders, fixed beacons, etc.) places an lower limit on the number of collisions that can be avoided by current autonomous automobiles. It will be interesting to see if that limit is above or below the societal tolerance for accidents.)




It will be interesting to see if warships will transmit their positions. I can see the United States not actively transmitting in contested waters (Persian Gulf, Yellow Sea, et al) which also happen to be crowded waters. This would put the burden on the warships to avoid (we know how well that works) or the autonomous ships to avoid non-transmitting ships who defy the rules of the road.

One way for the former to work better would be if autonomous ships transmitted their intentions / intended track with expected maneuvers along with their AIS data. Other ships would ‘know’ what the autonomous ships’ intentions were and could plan ahead.


IMHO having been a regular trader in the far east / PG / Singapore that is the only way that it can work. However, we are already in a two tier situation with class A AIS being mandatorily carried by vessels >300GT which does not include the hundreds of thousands under that all doing their own thing according to local custom and practice.

Eventually there may well be a ‘network of ships’ where communications / data / maneuvering are all connected but we, realistically, are probably thirty years away from that. Look at the 70 year old lakers!


Here’s how long it took in the aviation field:





With all that knowledge and experience from the Aviation industry it should be possible to develop a working system for ships that take away human error as much as possible.

Just like in the Aviation industry, where an aeroplane can take off, fly across oceans and land safely, using automated system, it should be possible for ships to do something similar. Initially with someone on board who can take over in case of failure, but eventually autonomously.

Drones, being operated remotely from the other side of the world, are able to spot and kill people with a reasonable accuracy. Why cannot a ship be remotely piloted into and out of ports from a nearby Port Control Tower?

If aircrafts can be protected from hackers taking control of them and turn them into weapons, or drones turned around and fire at own HQ, why is it IMPOSSIBLE to imagine that ships can be protected from similar attack?


Au contraire, it easy to imagine, but I have a good imagination, sometimes I think about the pretty waitress at that burger joint… but not going to happen. It’s the implementation that’s difficult.

More difficult to imagine is a flaw in almost every Intel chip made in the last 10 years

Virtually every modern computer is vulnerable to a pair of devastating attacks, and there’s only a fix for one of them, and it sucks

Today, three groups of security researchers from the Technical University of Graz, Cerberus Security, and Google Project Zero revealed a pair of defects in modern computers that allow adversaries to steal passwords and other sensitive data from virtually any computer in use today.

Didn’t see that coming.


Most aircraft are piloted with people in the cockpit. Even cargo planes fly with pilots. As others have repeadly said its a matter of human comfort rather than technology.

You seem to forget/ignore that we’ve had the ability to remote pilot aircraft for decades now. Hobbyists have been flying remote control airplanes for decades. Passenger aircraft have had autopilot for decades. We could have had pilotless cargo jumbo jets in the air decades ago. But we don’t.

And you forget that aircraft are highly unlikely to run into each other once aloft. That they fly in three dementions (bound by the ground below, the thin air above, and the rare mountain) and not sail in two dementions (bound by the common land) makes collisions many times less likely. Add to the fact that any person with a raft, paddle and a fishing pole can present a hazard to shipping but it’s still rare that any person can up and fly around - let alone fly around at 10,000m.

It’s hubris to expect the matter of autonomous ships will be solved and IMPLIMENTED beyond demonstrator technology any time soon.


God I’m tired of this shit. Look, here’s my modest proposal:

As backyard hobbiests have been flying remote controlled kerosene powered airplanes from their backyards for scores of years now. 1950s maybe?

As jumbo jets have had autopilot for scores of years and radio direction finding would be fine over land to adjust courses.

As jumbo jets arrive/depart from large airports.

Therefore train hobbiests to takeoff and land jumbo jets from large airports and let autopilot fly between airports via radio beacon ‘roads’ to follow.

Oh, we did have unmanned aircraft back then too. For example, the DH.82 Queen Bee (1935) or the truly ‘autonomous’ aircraft AIM-7 Sparrow (1959).

This is all 1950s tech here. SO WHY DO WE STILL HAVE PILOTS ON AIRCRAFT?


I didn’t see that flaw, not only Intel chips but just about every other chip too, coming.

That will affect both the aviation and military use of those chips as much, if not more, than any autonomous ship of the future, will it not??

By the time autonomous ships becomes common, I hope that problem have been solved and plugged.


It may be that according to surveys of airline passengers, it’s because they want warm bodies in the cockpit but I’m not convinced the current technology would have brought US Airways 1549 to a successful ditching saving the lives of all passengers.


So the guys who play with little remote controlled boats on a pond could bring ships into harbor and dock them?
Dude that’s gotta be some prime bud you’re smoking.


The point I was making with my ‘modest proposal’ was that the technology for pilotless aircraft existed sixty years ago. And yet, sixty years later, we still don’t see autonomous aircraft except for military applications and the occasional demonstrator projects.

Our Norwegian friend seems to think that just because the technology for crew-less ships exists it’s implementation is imminent. Nuclear cargo ships and supersonic passenger transport these are extant technologies. So why aren’t the seas and skies full of them?

Just because the technology exists for crew-less ships doesn’t mean we will suddenly have crew-less ships everywhere.