Rolls-Royce, which gets 16 percent of its revenue from its marine division, is considering unmanned ships:
The company’s schematics show vessels loaded with containers from front to back, without the bridge structure where the crew lives. By replacing the bridge — along with the other systems that support the crew, such as electricity, air conditioning, water and sewage — with more cargo, ships can cut costs and boost revenue, Levander said. The ships would be 5 percent lighter before loading cargo and would burn 12 percent to 15 percent less fuel, he said.
Crew costs of $3,299 a day account for about 44 percent of total operating expenses for a large container ship, according to Moore Stephens LLP, an industry accountant and consultant.
I never thought of “life-support systems” on a ship as a costly element, and I didn’t think modern crews were particularly large, either.
I can easily see unmanned ships taking on a crew near shore, in the same way that sailing ships used to take on a pilot.
The military is also considering unmanned ships for sub-hunting.