The 2020 Fourth IMO Greenhouse Study has shown how, basing on the
“business-as-usual” scenario, GHG are expected to increase by 90-130 percent by
2050, contrasting with the association’s target to halve emissions by 2050. To avoid
this negative scenario one path to be followed is surely the developing field of
autonomous technology. This innovative solution offers in fact multiple benefits.
On one hand, it is a guarantee of safety: by constantly monitoring the position of a
vessel, it ensures the maintenance of safety distance from possible threats and
hazards, therefore preventing accidents and collisions, which are known to have a
severe impact on the environment.
Autonomous technology could also serve as an
instrument of law enforcement and active environmental protection, since
technologies based on geo-fencing can stop ships from carrying out harmful actions,
ensuring that vessels take appropriate environmental measures, such as adhering to
restrictions in given vulnerable areas.
At the same time, this technology increases voyage efficiency. By continuously
reacting on a small scale to small actions, rather than intermittently responding on a
bigger scale to larger occurrences, it improves fuel efficiency, therefore reducing
emissions. All these benefits are largely proved by recent papers. According to these
researches, autonomous solutions can yield fuel savings of 10 percent or more on
In addition, by enabling just-in-time ship operations, also known as JIT, these
innovative technologies can decrease vessels’ speed according to the portual traffic
conditions, therefore minimizing queuing time and allowing for emissions cutting, a
crucial point in busy port areas. Besides, studies show how, while approaching the
port, a speed reduction of 10% can lead to a 30% decrease of CO2 emissions.
Many practical examples of the efficiency of autonomous solutions have already
been put in place by the shipping industry: among others, the development of
autonomous bulk cranes, which reduces vessel turnaround time, enhancing
sustainability in port operations. Thanks to these innovative technologies, IMO’s
target could not be too ambitious to reach, after all.