Originally Posted by goboatingnow
I think you miss how technology progresses. What you are seeing is a research concept
, but as the pieces are put in place over the forthcoming years , manning will corresponding reduce , looks at the reduction in ships engineering staff and the rise of remote
Eventually you're down to one man and his dog etc. then just the dog. By that time you will have accepted the technology
Remember how people sniggered when you put a brick cellphone to you ear and talked in public , and nowadays.......
I think you're underestimating the complexity of the machine. To me, the navigational stuff would be the easier part. The big void would be left on the engineering side and the "state of the art" automation in place now isn't even all that reliable. I have yet to work on a vessel whose "automation" system didn't have numerous glitches, false readings and failures. Some were better than others. Nice to glance at, but not the end all, be all. Never worked with RR but everything I've heard regarding their marine
systems is nothing but nightmares.
A ship at sea is not a "turn the key and go" operation. Automation has been great at reducing the workload of operating
the machinery but it doesn't turn wrenches or replace gaskets for you. Ship engineering staffs have been reduced, but the automation has only turned them from operating/maintenance engineers (like on the steam plants) to mostly maintenance
engineers (which on the motor
ships, is quite a bit of work). They are still quite busy.
(alarming) is relatively simple to implement but I don't see that as the major hurdle. What do you do about a burst fuel pipe in the E/R? Clogged sea strainers? Failure of a main engine
cylinder? Fuel contamination that overwhelms your purifiers and auto-filters? I have experienced each of these first-hand. Not common, but not at all unusual. How about the type of problem that plagued the Emma Maersk back in February when its shaft alley and half the main engine
room flooded? Without crew onboard, the ship would've been lost
. Even on the most technologically-advanced vessels today, something is maintained or physically manipulated that while minor at the moment, would turn into a major problem if left unattended during a 10 day ocean crossing
. Fuel management and ballasting alone is a continuous operation on a modern HFO-burning vessel.
There would have to be major leaps in other technologies that go beyond the ship itself. Weather
forecasting and routing is pretty good these days, but nothing beats being onboard, seeing the weather
with your own eyes, feeling the ship, knowing how it's riding and making course/speed adjustments as necessary. Modern vessels have enough power that if you apply it incorrectly, you will do damage. Without that first-hand perspective, you can do a lot of structural damage to the vessel, not to mention its cargo.
Refrigerated containers are very reliable but fail at sea all the time. They take monitoring and maintenance
from the ship's crew to keep from spoiling their cargo. They would have to be made 100% foolproof as well.
Container lashings work loose over long periods, especially if the ship is working in the seas pretty good. They need attention and tightening.
What happens when an unmanned ship goes dead in the water in the middle of the Pacific? How long of a delay is going to be acceptable to customers to get a crew out there, diagnose the problem, possibly have to wait for parts
to be flown/shipped out, fix the problem and get the ship making way again? A day? Two? A week? Container ships especially already run very tight schedules relatively speaking in the shipping world.
And to do all of this to, among other "benefits", be able to get away without having a sewage treatment system installed? On the ships I was on, the MSD treatment system was the size of a VW bug and probably weighed about the same. Not going to be noticeable on a 10,000 TEU container ship.
These types of things are fascinating to read about in Popular Science-type magazines, but are often fantasy. If someone can come up with a way to get beyond all of these problems and make it economically feasible, more power to ya. I'm not a stick in the mud when it comes to technological progress, but I doubt any of us will see this in our lifetimes. We have a better chance of seeing a manned-mission to Mars.