August 31, 2016

A Maritime Vasectomy?

Perhaps the Merchant Marine should best prepare for a maritime vasectomy where the supply of seamen is no longer required.
Ship designers, their operators and regulators are gearing up for a future in which cargo vessels sail the oceans with minimal or even no crew. Advances in automation and ample bandwidth even far offshore could herald the biggest change in shipping since diesel engines replaced steam.

[...]British engine maker Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC is leading the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications initiative involving other companies and universities. It foresees technologies long used to improve commercial airline operations migrating to ships. The group also is tapping know-how from those working on driverless cars to adapt for safe at-sea autonomous operations.

A future unmanned ship could resemble some of the most advanced combat drones. It would sport infrared detectors, high-resolution cameras and laser sensors to monitor its surroundings. The vast troves of data would be transmitted to command centers where staff do little more than monitor progress and ensure ships are operating at optimum speeds.

The consortium completed a study this year that concluded such vessels are feasible and offer savings.
Apparently the first of new advanced GPS satellites have already been placed in orbit; these devices could support the bandwidth needed for remote piloting of oceanic merchant vessels. I'm also thinking that missiles, sonar and signal intelligence equipment could also be placed on board. With no crew there'd less chance of security breaches.

Story here.


Doom said...

My wonder is rather simple. When everything is automated, who will be making a living to buy anything. I heard one smarmy commenter suggesting government workers. Who will pay the taxes which support government employees, from cops to firemen to secretaries to governors, they all depend on money taxed from those who earn a living and then use that earning to purchase goods and services.

Seriously, cut out the wage earner and there is absolutely no need for that ship to deliver products which no one can purchase. Nor will the factories which produce goods, or even commodities, be needed. Sure, there will be changes to things, but really... this is not going to bode well. On smaller scale, these things can be useful. If it lowers risk, or takes out the hardest parts of some tasks. But when it eliminates completely the need for the low to non skilled worker? Yeah. Just... thinking.

sig94 said...

Doom - but that thinking ain't too far off. As labor prices themselves out of the market and business seeks to maximize profits, what's gonna happen? Fortunately most people are employed by small businesses who most likely do not rely on the types of activities that lend to automation ... yet.

"... large businesses only employ about 38 percent of the private sector workforce while small businesses employ 53 percent of the workforce. In fact, over 99 percent of employing organizations are small businesses and more than 95 percent of these businesses have fewer than 10 employees."

Doom said...

That's somewhat of a relief. And not all big biz can go automated, if some small businesses can and will (such as restaurants cutting clerks for automation, and maybe cooks... if often thankfully... even the white teens can be nasty to just typical middle aged white men). Lets say 20% of work is automated, that is still a lot of unemployed, over the real current 23%. That's... tight.

underground pewster said...

At least they won't have to worry about the head getting clogged.

sig94 said...

Pewster - But what about the need for an IPL (initial program load) in the middle of the Pacific? Better be redundant or even tertiary systems on that puppy.