I note in the June 2018 edition of Sea Breezes, that shore-based shapers of the future of the Marine Industry are continuing to drive the notion of autonomous ships as a given fact.
It all smacks of fake news on futuristic vessels that will have limited use, but a lot of nuisance when mixed at sea with normal ships. Ships are not missiles to be sent on their way, with course corrections to reach their destinations. Surface traffic worldwide is relatively slow moving along recommended tracks and complying with Traffic Separation Schemes at choke points.
At sea, all masters comply also with requirements of UNCLOS and SOLAS rendering aid to fellow mariners should the need arise or when directed by MRCC’s. They also follow anti-collision regulations as laid down in Rule of the Road.
I cannot see drones replacing passenger planes and I certainly cannot see remotely controlled ships covering all aspects of marine traffic, eg containers, passengers, bulk oil, gas, chemicals, rescue, military transport and operations. It is an effort by certain companies to build their industries by transferring technology to ships and over egging their capability as normal future carriers of world goods and services. Remote vessels could be used for specific tasks like remote lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners, anything else would require world’s ports to be redesigned and the sea a no-go area for us humans.