'Transport 2040: Automation Technology Employment - the Future of Work' also forecasts trends and developments in major transport sectors - seaborne, road, rail and aviation - to 2040, focusing on the implications for jobs and employment for transport workers.


The report noted that automation in global transport will be 'evolutionary, rather than revolutionary,' and that qualified human resources with the right skill sets will still be needed.

Key findings mention that technological advances are inevitable, but will be gradual and will be different by region. Workers will be affected in different ways depending on their skill levels and the different degrees of preparedness of different countries.

Case studies, as well as comparisons of autonomy scales and automation possibilities for job profiles in transport provide insight to the future of work. Regarding maritime transport, the report looks at 17 countries more specifically to assess how prepared they are for technical innovation.

What is more, the report states that new technologies and automation will affect transport sector workers by displacing and creating jobs. However, it may lead to difficult transitions for many employed in the transportation sector. For this reason, the future of work needs to make sure that workers are qualified and re-trained to master new technologies and higher levels of automation.

Commenting on the report, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of WMU, stated that:

The future before us is challenging. However, technology is here to stay. The question is, how do we use it to enhance the human condition, and how do we prepare the work force for tomorrow?

Regarding autonomous ships, the report suggests that a number of lessons learned have been noted, such as:

  • Autonomous ships will not replace conventional cargo ships which could result in the lose of jobs for seafarers. It is expected that autonomous ships will be developed as part of a local transport system, which means they will create new nautical routes as an alternative to other transport modes;
  • As the current digitalization of the conventional fleet proceeds, seafarers will need to change to more digital ones, especially in operations monitoring and system management, and in less operational work. Education and training will need to adapt to equip seafarers with the new skills required;
  • More plans for autonomous ships can be expected as part of total transport systems that will take place in the next five years;
  • In Norway, seafarers working on inland ferries navigating short distances could lose their jobs as autonomous operations emerge. Captains and engineers are at special risk of being moved to shore-based positions, which will limit the need for personnel on board. Changes to technology that allow autonomous operation are already happening in inland ferries.

In order for the seafarer of the future to benefit from digitalization, he/she must combine maritime skills with digital skills in three general domains:

  • Data fluency and ability to interpret and analyse large amounts of data;
  • Digital operation of equipment such as ships, cranes and winches;
  • Software engineering of fundamental programmes and systems.

As for port automation, the report says that port operators are more proactive in conducting automation in comparison to shipping carriers regarding their deployment of autonomous ships.

Nevertheless, both shipping carriers and port operators believe that an automated terminal can be built in a restricted area in one country, where it would come under national jurisdiction. However, as regards autonomous ships that sail the waterways of many countries, or making voyages at sea, both national laws and international conventions have to be complied with.

The key findings of the report regarding port automation, include the following:

  • Port automation is developing rapidly;
  • Some automation processes in ports, such as lashing and twistlocking, still face considerable technical obstacles;
  • The workforce in ports needs training and reskilling.