Autonomous technology is about to disrupt the shipping industry. While driverless technology has been on the radar for a number of years now, with autonomous cars set to be on roads within the decade and currently one billion travellers using Europe’s automated metro systems each year, the world will finally see ships incorporating autonomous technology in the near future.
The world’s first autonomous cargo ship, YARA Birkeland will deliver goods between Norwegian towns. YARA will be zero emissions and has been developed with shipping technology company Kongsberg. It is due to begin operations next year and become fully autonomous by 2020.
The cost of the YARA has been cited at around $25 million, which is roughly 3x more expensive than a similarly sized standard container ship. However, return on investment could be drawn from a potentially dramatic cut to operating costs, which could be as high as 90% according to investors. Designed by Marin Teknikk Design and Engineering, YARA is a fully battery powered cargo solution with a max capacity of 120 TEU.
Ships that utilise electricity over traditional power methods will be in line to meet sustainability goals set out by the United Nations organisation (UN). With YARA set to reduce the number of road-based freight journeys by roughly 40,000, undoubtedly ships that use this technology will drastically reduce the industry’s Co2 and NOx emissions contributions.
We can also expect to see commercially operated ships in use before the end of the decade. This year, Rolls-Royce and Svitzer demonstrated the world’s first remotely-operated commercial vessel in Copenhagen.
Lloyd’s Register (LR) has, defined six levels of autonomy, starting from ‘AL 1’ through to ‘AL 6’, which is a fully autonomous ship with no on-board crew at all.
Japanese firms Mitsui OSK Lines and Nippon Yusen are working with shipbuilders and are also on course to launch self-driving cargo ships before 2025.
With global Co2 emissions from the shipping industry projected to account for 17% of global emissions by 2050 advances in electric autonomous transportation techniques will surely play a pivotal role in the reduction of greenhouse gas production.
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