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Seafarers and digital disruption, sorting fact from fantasy

Written by Nick Blenkey
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In coastal shipping and harbor operations, remote controlled ships could become a common sight

OCTOBER 16, 2018 – A study commissioned by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) aims to sort out the fact from the fiction on the potential effects of autonomous ships on the role of seafarers and the global shipping industry.

Carried out by the Hamburg School of Business Administration (HSBA), the study, “Seafarers and Digital Disruption,” includes an in-depth assessment of risk and opportunities of digitalization in global logistics chains, as well as on digitalization and automation in ship operations.

The findings suggest that the role of personnel on board and ashore will need to be redefined both operationally and legally. Reviewing and understanding how these roles may evolve is also identified in the study as an important aspect to assess and address the impact of autonomous ships on the role of seafarers.

“The two-year IMO regulatory scoping exercise for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) is now well underway to determine how existing IMO instruments can be leveraged to ensure that autonomous ships are safe, secure, and environmentally sound,” said ICS Secretary General, Guy Platten. “This a complex task, expected to impact several areas under IMO’s purview, and while it is recognized that clear opportunities might arise for the shipping industry which may not exist today, much more work must be done, particularly on the regulatory side and to address concerns about the impact of MASS on seafarers employed worldwide.”

With over 1.6 million seafarers currently estimated to serve on merchant ships trading internationally, the impact of MASS on seafarers requires thorough consideration going forward.

“Encouragingly, the study indicates that there will be no shortage of jobs for seafarers, especially officers, in the next two decades,” Platten noted. “While the size of crews may evolve in response to technological changes on board, there may also be considerable additional jobs ashore which require seafaring experience.”

The relationship between seafarers and digitalization is anticipated to be one of the main topics for discussion during an International Labor Organization sectoral meeting on “Recruitment and Retention of Seafarers and the Promotion of Opportunities for Women Seafarers,” to be held in Geneva in February 2019.

Access the full ICS study HERE



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