Autonomous vehicles are clearly the future of driving, but the technology may also extend to shipping. One of the biggest hopes for automated cars is that they will reduce driver mistakes and accidents. The same could be true for shipping. Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are coming to shipping, and the maritime industry could benefit from them, if it is ready.
Autonomous Ships are on the Horizon
At least two companies, Rolls-Royce Marine and Nippon Yusen, have already announced plans for getting autonomous ships on the water. These ships will be operated by computers and software, as well as people operating remotely. As early as next year there could be ships on the seas without a single human crew member on board.
These ships will use an array of sensors to detect their surroundings and remote workers using satellite data links to operate them. Autonomous vehicles are designed to be completely self-sufficient, but the ships companies are working on now will use a combination of automation and remote control.
Automation Can Make Shipping Safer
Even with all the technology available on modern ships, the maritime industry is dangerous and workers are often injured in accidents. Human error can lead to catastrophic decisions. Workers on ships may get hurt when these mistakes are made, but all too often there are fatalities. There are many examples, but one of the biggest recent tragedies was the loss of the entire crew of the El Faro in the Caribbean when the captain made poor decisions about navigation and weather.
An automated ship has a number of advantages over the traditional ship. One of these is safety. Accidents will be less common with automation, but there will also be fewer crew members out on the oceans with these kinds of ships in operation. The transition may be tricky, though, and it will be a mistake to assume autonomous shipping will be 100 percent accident-free. The industry must be ready to handle new, possibly unforeseen issues.
AI Solutions to Maritime Danger and Risk
In addition to completely autonomous and remotely-driven ships, artificial intelligence holds the potential to making shipping safer. For instance, AI that analyzes past accidents can come up with solutions to prevent future incidents. These kinds of AI systems should be able to alert crew and send warnings that an accident is likely or imminent.
This same type of AI can also analyze large amounts of data to create the most risk-free navigational routes. They could potentially navigate ships around crowded ports and analyze and take into consideration weather patterns. AI may also be useful in tracking maintenance on ships and predicting when parts may fail or cause accidents or injuries.
Advancements in automation and AI technology are helping in a variety of industries. Shipping is among the most dangerous type of work, with crew members being at risk of getting seriously hurt or even killed on the job. If these new technologies can make the job safer and significantly reduce risk, it will help save lives and make the industry more efficient. Workers will be the big beneficiaries, in terms of safety, but they need employers and ship owners to embrace and bring on board these important technologies.
If you have been hurt or lost a loved one to a maritime or shipping job, you have legal rights. There are laws to protect you and to allow you to recover appropriate damages. Whether or not your employer is negligent, you can get compensation for a workplace shipping accident.