Autonomous ships ‘not a threat to jobs’, report concludes

18 October 2018

Seafarers do not need to worry about losing their jobs as a result of autonomous shipping, a new report has concluded.

The study was produced by the Hamburg School of Business Administration for the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) with the aim of assessing the impact of 'digital disruption' on the maritime profession.

The report notes concerns raised by seafarers in the survey carried out by the Nautilus Federation last year, but says that even if as many as 3,000 autonomous or semi-autonomous ships are introduced over the next seven years there will be 'no effect on the jobs market'.

Researchers pointed out that there is already evidence of a global shortage of ships' officers and if world trade grows as expected, this could rise to 147,500 by 2025.

In addition, the report argues, there will be an increasing need for 'highly-skilled remote-operators, pilots of a new kind and riding gangs' to keep hi-tech ships operational.

'This leaves valuable time to adapt training patterns and re-train experienced seafarers with digital competencies,' it adds.

The report says that the role of personnel onboard and ashore will need to be redefined, both operationally and legally. It also highlights a series of 'human element' issues that the industry needs to address, including analysis of the work that needs to be done onboard and what can be done ashore, whether compulsory seatime will remain relevant, and what safeguards should be considered for seafarer welfare.

ICS secretary general, Guy Platten said: '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 onboard, there may also be considerable additional jobs ashore which require seafaring experience.'