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Seafarers’ jobs not threatened by autonomous ships

There will be no shortage of jobs for seafarers, especially officers, in
the next two decades, as
a result of the
introduction of autonomous ships, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS)
reassured, citing data from a new study.

The study was carried out by the Hamburg
School of Business Administration (HSBA) on behalf of ICS, its primary focus
being the potential effects of autonomous ships on the role of seafarers and
the global shipping industry.

Autonomous shipping has gone beyond the
theoretical stage, and is set to usher in a new business model for
shipping. Advanced demonstrations and real-world deployments are increasing,
even though at this stage these involve predominantly smaller vessels deployed
on shorter distances.
Despite different forecasts on the time frames when
there will be grater presence of autonomous ships sailing the oceans, the
reality is that smart ships are definitely coming.
For seafarers this will mean that their roles will
have to be redefined, the study said.
“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,”
Secretary General, Guy Platten, said.
“This a complex task, expected to impact several
areas under IMO’s purview, and while it is recognised 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. 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,”
Despite the anxiety of seafarers’ unions that the
automation of ships is a job threat, the study indicates that in order to
get introduced autonomous shipping will have to gain public acceptance. In
order to do so, its primary goal should not be cost cutting, but improving
vessel performance and safety.
This would help influence the decisions made
by lawmakers and regulators when considering creating and amending regulations
which will shape how autonomy will be implemented into international deep-sea
shipping, the study said.
The study includes an in-depth assessment of risk
and opportunities of digitalisation in global logistics chains, as well as on
digitalisation and automation in ship operations.
The findings of the study 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.
World Maritime News 

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