Technology is changing our lives so fast that it’s impacting every part of our human experience. The breakthroughs that took 40-50 years are now happening much faster, because learning and adaptation of new technologies are exponential, rather than gradual.

What it took to transform an industry in 30 years, is now happening in a couple of years.

Like many other industries, the shipping industry is not immune to this rapid change. Below are some new advancements that I discovered – we should expect these in the shipping industry in the next 10 years:

  1. Use of advanced materials: Metals are the most widely-used materials of a ship’s structure, and due to advancements in nanotechnology, we will see new materials used, such as carbon-fiber composites. These materials will not only protect vessels from corrosion, but also make them more efficient.
  2. Robotics: Like in every industry, advancements in robotics will also benefit liners, and save cost. Instead of using crane operators, or using humans for inspection in harsh environments, robots will take over mostly repetitive and dangerous jobs. Sensors will also be more widely used in different equipment, monitoring the different parts of the vessel and notifying when something goes wrong (replacing physical examinations.)
  3. Communications: Just like smart homes, where all electronic devices in homes will be connected to, and communicate with, each other, the same thing is expected with ships where Wi-Fi and 5G technologies will see the connected ship come to fruition. Not only will smart ships constantly monitor their own engines and other parts, but autonomous operation without a captain is coming, and will be something quite interesting.
  4. Power and propulsion technologies: Just as we have hybrid engines and renewable energy used in cars, we should expect the same with a new generation of ships, too. Climate change is a hot topic that is gaining momentum, and over the next 10-15 years, with rising costs of fuel and more regulatory environment, we should expect testing of new technologies like diesel-electric engines and hybrid propulsion in vessels.

To summarize and give an example, the next generation of vessels will made from advanced materials, such as graphene, to make the vessels lighter; it will have sensors, where it will constantly detect pollutants and emissions; it will have onboard analytical computers where it will navigate itself; it will communicate with its parts and do necessary maintenance by utilizing robotics on board; and, it will have hybrid LNG marine diesel fuel, mixed with biofuels, as its main drive for propulsion.

It might seem like a distant future right now, but exponential advancements in technology may make these vessels standard in less than 10 years.