Automation of maritime industry in the era of digitalization

Ismail Abdel Ghafar


With the rapid technological advancement of the fourth and fifth industrial revolutions in recent decades, the international maritime industry has been challenged to be aligned with the requirements of the new effective and efficient technological development. Key challenges are to sustainably utilize new technologies and applications of AI and unmanned systems efficiently in the maritime industry while maintaining high levels of safe maritime operations. 

Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, 3-D printing, virtual augmented and mixed reality, and omniverse are just examples of results of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). In addition, the world is witnessing the commencement of the transition to the Fifth Industrial Revolution (5IR), which may be defined as a new era of collaboration between humans and machines, with emerging disruptive technologies demanding the maritime community, academia, and industry to act swiftly on many frontiers. The (5IR) can be described as the collaboration between humans and machines in the workplace with various prospects for automation.

Autonomous technology is poised to reshape the maritime sector with crewless vessels; small crafts and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) are already developed and in service with larger vessels under development. Technical feasibility combined with compelling economic advantages, such as improved efficiency, reduced human error, and operating costs, are driving adoption, especially in the maritime industry. It is time for the maritime industry to collaborate and align its efforts within the various sectors to the fact that autonomy is coming and to address current gaps through understanding how autonomy can shape the future of such a rich industry and how to exploit it for the benefit of the blue economy and the shift towards greener vessels. This article aims to shed the light on the concept of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS), the challenges it presents, and the role of Maritime Education and Training (MET) institutes in preparing for it.


Automation; Maritime Industry; Digitalization; Maritime Transport

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Maritime Research and Technology
E-ISSN: 2812-5622
P-ISSN: 2812-5614 

Published by:

Academy Publishing Center (APC)
Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT)
Alexandria, Egypt