MAR 14, 2018 @ 06:00 PM2,406
Rescue ships demonstrate operations during an emergency drill on August 23, 2016 in Sanya, Hainan Province of China. A drone joined the mission. (VCG via Getty Images)
China ranks as the world’s third largest marine shipping country with a chance to become the world’s most dominant one by 2030. Even as commodity shipments have slipped with the slowdown in Chinese economic growth, container traffic from China to Europe and the U.S. west coast were picking up in 2016, market research firm IHS itime & Trade says.
But someday you might not see any captains. Instead, remote-controlled ghost ships would send containers around the world and even work for the Chinese navy , according to news reports and the views of analysts.
That's because China is rigorously grooming an autonomous fleet, something like giant drones of the sea. This year it started building a huge “test field” for autonomous ships off the South China Sea coast of Guangdong province, according to this World Maritime News report. The 771.6-square-kilometer Wanshan Marine Test Field, hailed as a first of its kind in Asia, was set up to become the world’s largest field anywhere over the next three to five years, the report says.
The field will allow testing of technology that lets a captain-less ship steer and avoid obstacles, Chinese news website China.org.cn said in February. Advances from the test site will also set standards for the industry nationwide, state-run China Daily online said in February.
Autonomous ships can save money otherwise spent to hire captains and support people, a report by the Technical University of Denmarksays. In any country, it's industry that usually pushes for this technology, says Robert Murrett, a public administration and international affairs professor at Syracuse University in the United States