Automation is the future of maritime

Automation is the future of maritime

Automation is the hot topic across the maritime industry right now, and it’s a polarising one; with half believing it’s the future and the other half certain it can’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) be done. The simple truth is that autonomous technology is already here and advancing rapidly.

There are different levels of automation, most of which still involve significant human involvement. Totally autonomous “AI-driven” ghost ships are a long way off, but in the short and medium term, there is a huge opportunity to systemize and automate dangerous or repetitive tasks on-board ships and generate efficiencies that have not been possible until now.

At CargoMate, we are working to augment cargo operations monitoring through technology- with a long-term goal of improving safety by reducing crewmember fatigue and improving efficiency by allowing ship operators to proactively manage the schedule. We’re not alone, there are now hundreds of companies building platforms for the industry that range from the automation of paperwork right through to fully unmanned ships.

Automation isn’t just about ships

Automation is already impacting maritime and has done so for the last century or so. Long gone are the stokers and carpenters, with Radio Officers and Electricians more recently being replaced by simplified technology and more specialised skill-sets. Over the next 30 years, automation will cause a much more fundamental shift in how the industry operates.

It won’t just affect ships at sea though. In other industries, narrow forms of AI have become advanced enough to replace humans in many business processes. From shipbroking and maritime law, to freight forwarding and fleet management; it’s quite possible that humans will be forced into niche fields of expertise, buying time before automation takes their jobs too. For those that embrace innovation, automation will be a good thing. For those that don’t; today is the beginning of the end for their businesses.

One of the main arguments against automation is the threat to jobs. Far from being a threat, automation is a massive opportunity. Maritime isn’t alone; in every industry, automation is threatening jobs, but what is often underestimated is its power to create jobs. According to research by Deloitte, over the last fifteen years, automation has wiped out 800,000 jobs in the UK. But it has also generated 3.5million new jobs that on average pay £10K more per annum than the lost jobs.

What does the future hold?

How will the industry look in 30 years time? The only certainty is it will be radically different from shipping today; there will be countless new jobs that didn’t exist before. Safety will have radically improved by taking humans out of the most dangerous situations. Shipping companies that were able to adapt will be operating superior ships that are more efficient and more environmentally friendly than their predecessors.

Whether we want it to or not, automation is shaping the future of the maritime industry. We believe that the industry has a very bright future ahead. If you share our vision, work with us to make it happen.

Nick Chubb MNI is Head of Growth at CargoMate. He started his career as a deck officer in the Merchant Navy and has been working in technology sales and marketing in London since he came ashore. Before joining CargoMate Nick led the development of Learn@Sea, a digital education platform for seafarers with over 10,000 members and founded Antares Insight, a strategy consultancy which helps clients in the maritime sector understand and implement emerging technology.

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