Rolls Royce made the first moves toward the oceangoing unmanned autonomous container ship concept, but according to The Straits Times, it looks like two Norwegian companies, a maritime technology firm and a fertilizer manufacturer, have partnered to beat them to the punch, at least on a small local level (http://tinyurl.com/autoshipNorsk).
The 229-foot-long Yara Birkeland, electric powered with zero emissions, will be launched next year to transport fertilizer from one port to another port nearby, replacing 40,000 truck shipments a year. The ship will be manned at first, but in 2020, the Birkeland will be fully autonomous. It is pictured, courtesy of www.km.kongsberg.com
Autonomous ships would reshape the shipping industry. One consultant estimated using a crew amounts to 44 percent of a ship’s costs. And, a great deal of a ship’s space is dedicated to crews and their needs. No crew equals significant savings, and a lot more cargo space. A win-win all the way around for the shipping companies. For sailors, not so much.