Autonomous vessels are the next generation of hi-tech automated vessels that would be exclusively controlled by advanced intelligent systems thus doing away with human presence for control.
The level of vessel control would vary from semi to fully autonomous systems. The application of autonomous technology is already widespread in many air and land based transport systems. Examples of these include automated subways, self-driving vehicles, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) in modern container terminals such as Port of Rotterdam Container Terminal and Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in aviation.
Presently, there is a serious drive on the part of interest groups in the shipping industry to introduce self driving autonomous vessels to supplant and finally replace manned vessels in the not too distant future. The achievement of this goal might not be far fetched due to rapid advancements being made in the field of Internet of Things, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and other allied systems.
Norway as a nation and Rolls Royce as a corporate entity have both contributed in immense forms to the development of the autonomous vessel systems. It has been envisaged that Autonomous shipping is the direction in which the maritime industry would follow in the future. This has given it the privilege of being classified among the class of disruptive technologies that might influence the strategic direction of the maritime industry.
Being the cheapest means of transportation around the world, and major means of cargo traffic around the world, Maritime transport has serve as the backbone of Globalization and international trade. Despite these, there is concerted effort on the part of the major players to continually find ways to bring down operating expenses. One major areas where autonomous vessels would reduce overall cost in the logistics chain is the elimination of recurrent expenditure such as salaries and benefits for crew members.