By 2030, far-reaching autonomous sailing will have become accepted in the ferry industry, at least when applied to the smaller, inland ferry operation. This is fortunate, because the current generation of skippers (2021) will largely be retired by 2030, while the influx of new crew personnel and captains will lag behind. The Dutch labour market for skippers, sailors and other sailing personnel will be 25% smaller in 2030 than in 2021. However, automation in the ferry industry has ensured that by 2030 more and more passengers can be transported, despite employing fewer people. The investment in new software and sensors for ferries is economically viable as operational staff costs are reduced.
Automated inland ferries without onboard crew (but with a human in the loop) use artificial intelligence and various onboard sensors for large parts of the journey, supplemented by data from waterway authorities and data from other vessels. Onboard software is capable of reading the waterway, warning or anticipating changes and resolving traffic situations. Most ships are equipped with intelligent warning systems that support shore control centres in their monitoring activities. Part of the ferry industry is able to sail at a high automation level, with supervision from a shore control centre. Fully autonomous ferries without a human in the loop are not expected in 2030.
Requirements have been defined for shore control centres from which remote control is possible; public bodies monitor safety.