Crewless Cargo Ships Looked Upon By Owners As Wave Of Future

Shipowners, trying to save money by reducing crew numbers, are hoping the crewless cargo ship will be the wave of the future, while scientists are dreaming of the ultimate cost-saving—a ship fully controlled by computer.

Within a few years, flotillas of unmanned cargo ships escorted by one crewed mother vessel could be sailing the high seas.

Already, Japanese technologists have carried out successful testing of an unmanned vessel. The Shiiya Merchant, a 10,000-dwt ore carrier, recently completed two days of trials in the perilous 20-mile-wide strait between southwestern Japan and South Korea. The vessel navigated perfectly through the shallow rock-strewn channels during a voyage planned and executed completely by the onboard computers.

Computer-controlled uncrewed ships are absolutely essential for the economic future of long-haul bulk shipping, Japanese marine technologists believe. Several Japanese shipyards have designs for trans-Pacific unmanned containerships and tankers that could be in operation by the mid-1990s. Unmanned ships probably would sail in flotillas accompanied by one ship carrying a maintenance crew to carry out emergency mid-ocean repairs.

As ship operators seek to cut overhead, reduced crew numbers is one of the principal aims of ship designers.

Therefore, a British naval architect said, the concept of an unmanned ship should not be dismissed out-of-hand.

Other stories from November 1991 issue


Maritime Reporter

First published in 1881 Maritime Reporter is the world's largest audited circulation publication serving the global maritime industry.