Partially autonomous ships with less crew members on board are said to be more likely to be operational in the near future than fully autonomous drone cargo ships, which are not expected to come into operations for another decade, according to the Journal of Commerce.
Global port and terminal operator DP World said in a recent study that significant challenges would be encountered with the deployment of autonomous cargo ships.
The study said: “A related concern is safety, and it is unclear when autonomous or remotely-operated ships will be able to adequately cope with the challenges of weather, obstacles and in-trip repair.”
However, a study published by the European Commission’s Maritime Unmanned Navigation Through Intelligence in Networks project has discovered that manned vessels carry more risks than autonomous ships.
The European Commission study said: “It appears that the unmanned ship does not pose an unsurmountable substantial obstacle in legal terms. Provided there is reasonable certainty that the unmanned ship can operate at least as safely as a manned ship, in all its functionalities, there is no reason to think that the legal framework cannot be adapted.
“From the perspective of port operators, drone ships would integrate best with the most automated terminals and would be beneficial for their business by helping to maintain the cost-competitiveness of sea transport.”
It was previously reported that autonomous ships are already being used across a number of sectors, including defence and oil and gas, with more coming into operation as they are better-integrated into the maritime industry.