The maritime industry has witnessed seismic technological disruption in the past decade, with process digitalization and automation of select operations helping improve transparency and logistics efficiency. Aside from disrupting back-end operations, automation is now increasingly relevant at the port terminals and on container vessels.  


The growth of trade across emerging economies around the world has meant a steady increase in global maritime trade cargo ton-miles, growing from 30 trillion ton-miles (ttm) in 2000 to over 60 ttm in 2019. With ports across several emerging countries now expanding rapidly, container lines will inevitably be making more frequent and longer trips in the future. 


Maritime shipping is human-labor-intensive, and the impending increase in the number of container vessels in the ocean will only lead to the industry banking more on a human workforce. It is here that ship automation can assist or supplement operations, quite like the midmile automation within the truck hauling market. 


The global autonomous ship market is growing from strength to strength. A study by Allied Market Research expected to see the autonomous ship market valued at $88.01 billion this year and anticipates it will reach $134.9 billion by 2030. That said, the autonomous ships market accounts for a variety of systems and a whole array of companies that work to improve specific aspects of autonomy. These ships will be equipped with software and hardware to reduce or eliminate the need for human intervention. 


Though fully autonomous ships are an ambitious goal for the time being, technology for partial automation and navigation via remote control stations is feasible and, in some cases, already underway. Widespread use of automation within ships can result in higher fuel efficiency and reduce operational costs, helping container lines yield better bottom lines.

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