Automation seems to be the key to an innovative and bright future for the freight industry. Since the 2010s, remote-controlled water vessels became less science fiction and more of a plausible – though challenging – objective.
In 2019, a 170 ft long merchant vessel set sail from southern Finland and transported 80 passengers over one mile without any captain on board. The ship was remotely controlled from a region more than 25 miles away.
The following year, an Unmanned Surface Vessel was tasked with mapping almost 400 square miles of ocean floor without any manual assistance. The three-week journey provided aspiration that by 2030, we will have mapped all of Earth's ocean floors.
Similarly, creative programming has allowed ships to achieve fascinating feats, such as successfully detecting mines without human evaluation or assess weather and current conditions for large vessels.
In fact, ships that can navigate without depending on data connectivity to human databases are already deployed by many government agencies.
With the potential promised by automation, it's no surprise that multiple projects to construct the first large-scale, fully automated cargo ship are already underway. The most notable of these is the construction of the Yara Birkeland.
Yara, which is the name of the ship's parent company, proudly claims that the vessel will be the first step towards revolutionizing the freight industry. It estimates that it will decrease truck activities by more than 40,000 annual expeditions.
Automation of cargo ships as a whole is regarded as potentially beneficial. The decreased crew numbers mean a larger storage capacity and saving up to one-third of the total charges of transports.
The reliability of technology also has the added effect of work efficiency that would be otherwise unachievable. More than 70% of maritime disasters are believed to be caused by human errors. These include improper training, misevaluations, exhaustion, or plain carelessness.
With the replacement of employees, there won't be any need for massive onboard sectors like the sleeping quarters, mess hall, and electrical wing, which would save a considerable amount of space. Besides reducing weight, this would also decrease the hazardous emission footprint of cargo ships.
Though automated ships sound like the ideal solution to current trade restrictions, they don't come without challenges.
For instance, letting a massive sea vessel sail without any human engineers or commanders is prohibited by most international regulations. Even if approved, the primary challenge of designing an artificial intelligence capable of independently handling complex and concrete tasks related to the cooling systems, generators, weapon systems, pumps, etc., without any manual assistance, is still very real.
The Yara Birkeland is currently scheduled to launch sometime in 2021. If successful, it will indeed be a commendable achievement in international trade and logistics.
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Wow, so amazing!Posted in: 01/10/2021