Friday, October 11, 2019

Evolving Shipping Technologies Throw Up an Interesting Debate Over Safety at Sea

Diverse Opinions as Regards the Future of Autonomous Vessels
Shipping News Feature

NETHERLANDS – WORLDWIDE – It looks as though we are in for one of those interesting debates often thrown up by the shipping industry as, with the evolution of the sector and its technologies, the views of management are often seen in a completely different light by those at the sharp end.

Such is the situation which has arisen following research undertaken by the grouping of maritime unions known as the Nautilus Federation, and published at the Nautilus International 2019 General Meeting in Rotterdam this week. Unsurprisingly 84% of maritime professionals consulted believe that automation poses a threat to seafaring jobs, however that is not the real point of contention.

The survey by the unions reveals an even higher percentage, 85%, believe that autonomous vessels, remotely controlled, do in fact constitute a real threat to safety at sea. This of course flies directly in the face of current thinking on the part of those responsible for trialling such systems who are adamant that safety will not just not be compromised, but actually improved.

Proponents of autonomy at sea are insistent that one of the great advantages is that the ships are able to eliminate the human factor which they claim is often the principle cause of accidents on the water. Nautilus says that the concern of its members on the issue means that it will put automation high on its agenda in the coming years.

The Union says it will also continue its work around jobs, skills and the future, working with members and key stakeholders to protect and enhance training and employment opportunities as well as the conditions of work for both those moving towards a career in the sector and those already working within the industry. Nautilus has also outlined a commitment to ensure greater inclusion and diversity in the profession, and to make shipping an attractive and welcoming place for women and minority groups.

At the conference Nautilus ran through the issues, including international trade, environmental issues, automation and diversity, as those key focuses for the industry, and therefore the Union’s activity over the next four years, by way of a video which you can see HERE. Speaking of the survey results general secretary of Nautilus International, Mark Dickinson, said:

“It’s extremely important that we listen to our members to understand first-hand the issues that affect them most in the industry at any given time. Ultimately it is the members who decide our key priorities and the next few years look certain to bring a lot of change in the industry. We have always said that we will embrace change but will also make sure we are taking the necessary action to ensure maritime professionals are protected and at the forefront of any discussions that take place within the industry.”

Photo: Nautilus acknowledges more places for women must be found in what is traditionally a male dominated industry.