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Future of shipping industry in the age of automation: the case of seafarer training challenges

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 19:19 authored by Mehrangiz ShahbakhshMehrangiz Shahbakhsh, Gholam Reza EmadGholam Reza Emad, Stephen CahoonStephen Cahoon

Background Industry 4.0, through digitalisation and automation, has already started to disrupt the supply chain and logistics system, including its maritime transport (Emad, Enshaei, & Ghosh, 2021). The rapid and significant developments in autonomous transport and delivery is one of the nine supply chain technology clusters reshaping the future of the maritime transport (Alicke, Hoberg, & Rachor, 2018). Already, autonomous shipping is applying advanced technologies such as cyber physical systems, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing to increase safety, efficiency, and sustainability in maritime domain (Emad, Khabir, & Shahbakhsh, 2020). Recently, the emergent COVID-19 disruption is adding another layer of challenges to supply chains, further emphasising the need for preparedness of the shipping industry by embracing autonomy to meet these challenges (Emad, 2021; Khanna, 2021; Zaman, Pazouki, Norman, Younessi, & Coleman, 2017).

Autonomous shipping technology could evolve in unpredictable ways and bring many benefits and equally concerns, especially for its human elements (Ferrantino & Koten, 2019), who are still likely to be a crucial element of the autonomous systems however, the new roles will bring their own challenges (Shahbakhsh, Emad, & Cahoon, 2021). In this respect, it is timely to address the potential challenges for seafarers as a main driver of the future shipping industry. Previously, changes in the maritime domain, including the introduction of new technology, have resulted in the need for the training of the new skills and competencies for seafarers (Emad et al., 2020). Although the research regarding the introduction and development of autonomous technology is maturing, there is little research about the role of humans in autonomous shipping. Thus, there is a gap and a critical need to investigate competency development and reskilling challenges that prepares seafarers for the autonomous future of shipping.

Method Although, past and current research on autonomous shipping tends to focus on technological development, there appears to be insufficient research on the human role (Karvonen & Martio, 2018; Mallam, Nazir, & Sharma, 2020). Therefore, this study conducted an in-depth systematic literature review (SLR) to consolidate and analyse the current research output in this field and identify knowledge gaps. By collecting reliable data through systematic procedures and protocols, there is a valuable opportunity to evaluate, analyse, and synthesise the existing data on autonomous shipping and in particular, what is known in the autonomous shipping field from the human element perspective. More specifically, the focus of this study is on the human element in autonomous shipping from the perspective of new roles, responsibilities, training challenges, and reskilling processes of future seafarers.

Results The outcomes of the SLR highlight a myriad of research undertaken in the technology used in the autonomous systems, in relation to for example, navigation, deep learning, and decision-making systems. The study also reaffirmed little research on the human element and the role of future system operators where the human role is likely to gradually move through different stages, from onboard to Shore Control Centers (SCC). A potential impact then 45 is that seafarers who are licenced through current training standards are unlikely to be qualified to fill the new positions. A recommendation of this study is that existing and future seafarers should be retrained and upskilled through new education and training standards to ensure readiness for their new roles and responsibilities. The study concludes with suggestions for future research including the critical need predict the new set of skills and competencies, new training facilities and structures, and the qualification requirements for future trainers.


Publication title

Proceedings of the 2021 the Australian Maritime Logistics Research Network (AMLRN) Symposium




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Australian Maritime College


Australian Maritime Logistics Research Network

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Australian Maritime Logistics Research Network (AMLRN) Symposium

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Higher education; Autonomous water vehicles

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