Future of ships


If a 20,000 TEU containership has a 20 man crew, that’s 1000 TEU per man.

Let’s assume the ship makes one voyage per month.

If the average cost of foreign crew is $1000 per month, and there are 20 men moving 20,000 containers, the crew cost is $1 per TEU. In other words, the crew costs almost nothing.

A figure frequently mentioned for US longshoremen costs is $100 per move. The way the Longshoremen operated the typical container is going to be moved at least three times before it leaves the port, costing $300. Let’s say half of the $300, or $150 is labor.

That’s $150 in transportation cost for Longshoremen vs. $1 for Foreign Mariners.

Why are we wasting time and money to create autonomous ships to save $1 when an autonomous dock would save $150. Plus, the near autonomous dock has been done. Rotterdam already has nearly autonomous container handling.

I don’t see how this expensive autonomous equipment can be installed and maintained on a ship for less than $1 per TEU.

Creating an autonomous ship to avoid crew costs is wasting money to solve a nonexistent cost issue.

Money would be much better spent on existing and proven technology for autonomous container docks.


The container port in Auckland is well on the way with driverless straddle carriers.


What will happen when the longshoremen become obsolete?


the world will be a better place…


No doubt that pirates can find a way to hijack a ship without crew, either physically or possibly by taking control from close quarters. It is also no doubt that a system will be installed to detect any boarding or attempt at taking control remotely, in which case the propulsion can be automatically stopped and systems disabled so the vessel will be dead in the water.
With no crew to ransom, or to be commanded to sail the ship, what good is it to the pirates?? No incentive to make the effort.

Any ship or ferry carrying pax will still have to be manned for safety reason, even if it is operated remotely or autonomously. Nobody is proposing to sail a ferry across a fjord with cars and pax on board without having a crew to organise evacuation, if that should be necessary.

To navigate a ship autonomously across oceans is already technically possible, but not yet legally possible. To make it an unmanned crossing will require propulsion and other machinery to be of a type that do not require attendance to operate continuously for lengthy periods. Personalty I doubt that a slow speed diesel run on HFO will be the solution, but hydrogen fuel cells are in rapid development and will be available by the time rules and regulation has been agreed to allow large unmanned ships on international voyages.



The Koreans are active in maritime innovation:


Some years ago, I think it was a Popular Science Magazine, had on it’s cover a Submarine Freighter. Today I would imagine it as a huge torpedo that would contain specialized manifest. Most likely nuke propulsion. And would be autonomous.

The theory then was that the deeper under water the submersible operates the faster it can travel. It wouldn’t be subject to high seas, winds, or ice.

Imagine such a ship operating without a crew ? It may fill a niche for certain types of freight where accelerated shipping would be highly profitable. Still not as fast of shipment as requiring Air Freight.

That is if you can wrap your head around an autonomous nuke freighter sub relying on AI. .


US navy has been been experimenting with unmanned bridges for the last few years…
we know how that worked out.


Just the idea of an unmanned nuke plant. . . . yeah. Great idea. . . .


I agree that putting nuke power in the hands of Artificial Intelligence would be viewed as pure madness by anyone with some sense. Then it wasn’t too long ago that autonomous vehicles would have been viewed the same. But here we are.

The 20th Century saw automation replaced men . The 21st Century has Artificial Intelligence slated as the next big thing, to replace men’s minds. The combination of these two would be pure bliss for the Wall Street crew whose eyes have pupils that look like this “$”.

As for that Submarine Freighter…sounds incredible ?

Imagine going to a Motocross where factory motorcycles race against each other without human riders ?

Sooner or later, someone will conclude that it would be safer to have Nuke Power Plants attended by Artificial Intelligence Robots and build
examples as proof of concept.

And yes, I can imagine some accidents taking place if it were attempted.


Here is some future for y’all

Easy access to shore power in every port.


That seems to be a portable one. Their main product supplies up to four cables from above at 350 amps and up to 1000 volts per cable. Can handle ten metre range of tide. https://nmec.no/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Zinus-PortPower.pdf


“The future” may be here already, at least according to this US company:


DNV-GL weigh in on smart ships and the human factor:


Interesting article. I like and agree with what the Dr is saying.

You have to admire the ideals those like Dr.Papaioannou advocate for
but at the same time you can’t slip into the abyss of naivety. If something looks like a highly profitable industry, “gold fever” will almost certainly take precedent But in economics, Gresham’s Law states that bad money will ultimately drive out good money.

Back during the Holidays I watched this Youtube video regarding the tall ships of the 1800’s and the coming of iron hulled steam ships and the difference it made in sailing, sailing men’s lives, and the economics of transportation. The iron steam ships were the bad money and you have to think about what was the good money of the time. I invite anyone to kick back for about an hour and watch the story and see what you think. Since the post Korean war automation has been a sweetheart of corporate industry and the investing sector while depersonalizing the workplace and eroding those conditions that
Dr.Papaioannou endorses. I feel for those University Presidents who can only point at the changes that they hope can be avoided, but as always they will continue to have their Ivy Halls and Campus no matter what happens to the world of working men at the hand of the business class. .


ITF and WMU study says the need for seafarers will double by 2040, even as autonomous ships will ply the waters in short sea and special trades:


Yes, I can see that and with good reason. The USA already is a huge exporter of agricultural products. It is thought that by 2050 there will be a 60% increase in what we are already exporting. At this time US Agriculture feeds a huge percentage of the worlds population.

The present world population is already in the mid 7 billion and will soon reach 8 billion. By 2050 it is believed to reach 9.7 billion. It follows that
more shipping & manpower will be necessary for the logistics of supplying those countries the US exports to. The map below shows the scale of our consuming trade partners.

And it should be remembered that agriculture will also be utilizing new production techniques with automation and AI while this is taking place.

But like the video shows with the emerging of steamers in the era of tall ships, there were some areas where the two technologies worked together. Autonomous AI submarine freight shipping will still require the human element for maintenance, landing in port, freight handling, etc.
It will be similar to agricultural tech advancements in agribusiness known as “Precision Farming”.

US Sec of Agriculture Perdue made this remark about this emerging field:

It’s using less resources, less inputs, less water, less fertilizer, less insecticides, less pesticides in order to produce a better, healthier, more wholesome crop.

It may follow that the shipping industry will innovate new tech in automation and AI to serve various niches that may arise in this time.
Perhaps for fresh and perishable Agricultural goods.

This will come under the heading of break-thru concepts and must have products. Possibly where one facilitates the delivery of the other.


I found the August 1990 Popular Mechanics cover that featured the submarine freighter I spoke of earlier.

Even if this weren’t operated as an autonomous AI vehicle there have been proposals for maned submarine propulsion units for submersible freight carrying modules. They would ride piggy back over the freight.


Just some illustrations of what I’m talking about. Of course in WW1 the Germans had a submarine freighter, The Deutschland" in operation.


I always thought the solution would be 3 cables supplying each phase of an 11kVA supply with a transformer onboard.