In Nautilus Federation ‘s survey of almost 1,000 maritime professionals of more than 20 seafaring unions, 40% of serving seafarers believe that commercially viable unmanned ships will be in widespread service within the next 20 years.
Namely, in the survey 44% was in favour of an active human presence supervising autonomous decision making. A significant minority of 23% want a slightly higher level of autonomy, which retains a human over-ride capability but reduces the amount of active human oversight on autonomous decisions.
However, not many of the respondents wanted to see more autonomy, with fully autonomous systems making their own decisions receiving support from only 6%.
In addition, the vast majority of the seafarers, 80% consider that the best way of achieving such automation benefits would be through the careful introduction of ‘smart’ systems alongside ‘manned’ operations. These points were highlighted when operators described their views on seven different levels of autonomy for unmanned, remotely operated, remotely monitored and unmanned systems.
Moreover, large minorities supported lower levels of autonomy – with two levels based around autonomous systems simply offering suggestions to a human decision-maker gaining support from 29% and 17% respectively.
However, only 16% of respondents wanted to see a future with no autonomous support. This suggests seafarers remain very open to a more hybrid approach, in which autonomous systems work by supporting trained seafarers who remain in control.
What is interesting however is the fact when if they believe that shipowners will only adopt autonomous / unmanned / remotely controlled shipping if it is cheaper than using seafarers, 89% agreed.