What do you think the automated world is going to look like if robot ship plans have been pushed through? Well, there’s a good chance you’ll get to see for yourself in just a few short years.

The largest container line in Japan intends to launch a robot ship in 2019 that will disrupt the entire shipping industry. The company is currently perfecting the plan, but Nippon Yusen K.K. said they are serious about their planned launch date. In 2019, the company says they will have a crew on standby for safety purposes as they test a remote-controlled shipping vessel (robot ship) as it makes its way from Japan to North America.[1]

This Tokyo-based cargo company is not the only one making headway in the realm of unmanned, robot ship or automated vessels, however. Many companies around the world are seeking new ways to lower costs and improve robot ship safety by implementing technology into the world of cargo carrying.

Seeing as most marine casualties are a result of human error, if this robot ship technology is implemented as planned, safety will dramatically increase. But, it is yet to be known what the potential job impact would be for workers in the field.

Currently, the global shipping industry is valued at $334 billion.[2]

Japan’s government is supporting the research and development initiatives of multiple companies, like that of Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. And Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., which are the second and third large shipping lines in Japan, respectively.

In addition to backing the initiatives, Japan’s government is already laying out some ground rules as well as it becomes the first in the world to set domestic and international standards for automated cargo shipping. Japan has announced its goal of 250 domestically built ships by 2025, all of which will feature this cutting-edge transmission technology that is currently in the works.[3]

A white paper released by Japan’s government in June pushed the efforts forward and encouraged the companies who are making strides in getting this technology out on the ocean. Spokespersons for the companies heading these efforts have stepped forward to encourage workers to be on board with it, saying that it will improve safety in the industry.

Japan is pushing global innovation in many ways but, if the launch is successful, this will be one of their biggest accomplishments yet.

Many industry experts and companies around the world have added their opinions to the debate of what this technology could do to the global shipping industry, but there’s obviously no set conclusion.

Generally, history would tell you not to worry. After all, the world has seen many changes and advancements. Just as quickly as one industry is phased out, another one opens. Likewise, as automation “takes over” many labor-intensive jobs, ultimately making for a safer work place, new positions will open up, most of which push citizens to acquire a higher education and a more tech-based knowledge of the world.

Until the test ship launches in 2019, the debate is likely to continue but, in the meantime, there are many other technological changes underway that could come to fruition a lot sooner.


[1] http://www.supplychaindive.com/news/NYK-Line-autonomous-ship-test-2019/503626/

[2] http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/international/2017/06/08/453936.htm

[3] https://asia.nikkei.com/Tech-Science/Tech/Japan-aims-to-launch-self-piloting-ships-by-2025

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