In 2030, short sea ships are increasingly equipped with partially autonomous functionality (autonomous navigation during part of the voyage, e.g. outside VTS or restricted areas), autonomous platform monitoring and control and automated communications with the outside world to cover a range of standard situations, thus making safe operations with a smaller crew possible.
This is important because short sea shipping has increased by 30% compared to 2020, and is set to continue its growth for the foreseeable future. More ships are competing for less space, with an increasing number of offshore windfarms restricting room for navigation on the already busy North Sea.
Meanwhile, the number of qualified seafarers is not growing fast enough to keep up with demand. BIMCO expects a worldwide shortage of almost 20% of ship officers by 2025, and this shortage will have increased further by 2030. This long-term trend has accelerated after the COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted the possibilities for crew repatriation and reduced the “appetite” for a seagoing career. Smaller crews on busier waters call for additional safety measures. A number of high-profile incidents has put more focus on maritime safety and there is a growing focus on shipping safety, to prevent any highly-polluting incidents caused by, for example, navigational error.
In 2030, the first generation of partially autonomous ships is operating with a reduced crew which has responsibility for the operation and is supported by shore control centres, who have a comprehensive awareness of the situation on board. Sailing with an unmanned bridge is technically and legally possible outside VTS/restricted areas. Crew is on standby to resume control in the event of anomalies.