Unmanned autonomous ships. An exploratory comparative cost-benefit analysis for a bulk carrier
Presentation held at IAME 2016, Annual Conference of the International Association of Maritime Economists, August 23-26, 2016, Hamburg
Unmanned autonomous ships are seen as a key element of a competitive and sustainable European shipping industry in future. However, even if the technology to automate ships further will principally be available at some point, this does not imply that autonomous vessels are also the superior choice for the ship owner. In the end the success of autonomous vessels depends crucially on their impact on the profitability of shipping companies. This paper analyzes the cost of running an autonomous ship and compares them against a conventional vessel in an cost-benefit analysis. Hereby it presents insights on the economics of autonomous vessels for a first-time. Results principally confirm an economic potential: The autonomous vessel is found to reduce the expected present value of cost of running a ship over a 25-year period by mUSD 4.3 compared to a conventionally manned ship. This advantageousness is based on one aspect in particular as this paper argues: besides cost savings associated with reducing crew levels an autonomous ship brings along additional benefits due to changes in ship design.