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Interview: No Market for Unmanned Ships in Tanker Sector

ardmore-seavaliant-700x500.jpgOn the back of the technological developments in autonomy, and other major trends in the maritime industry, including digitalisation, digital disruption and steps taken towards green shipping, World Maritime News spoke to Gernot Ruppelt, Chief Commercial Officer, Ardmore Shipping, who said that tankers would not benefit from vessel autonomy.

“At this stage, we don’t see a market for unmanned shipping in the tanker sector,” Ruppelt told World Maritime News.

“The only way this will happen is with the approval of the oil majors for this technology and that simply isn’t plausible at this stage. We don’t envisage them being happy with no crew on board and without their approval, there is no market for it in the tanker sector,” he added.

Furthermore, Ardmore Shipping’s CCO said that the company has no involvement in the development of unmanned ships.

He explained that the company “would prefer to see more resources being invested into emissions reduction technology, which is a higher priority for the industry than autonomous shipping.”

When asked about the industry’s efforts to shrink its environmental footprint, Ruppelt said that the industry is willing to invest in new technologies in order to cut emissions, “but the best way to achieve this is to align it with an organisation’s commercial priorities.”

Ruppelt: Where a reduction in emissions is driven by lower fuel consumption and a lower fuel bill, there is a natural commercial incentive that can be unlocked. Many ship owners want to play their part in cutting emissions, and technology has a huge role to play if it is priced at the right level and has gone through verifiable trials to demonstrate its effectiveness. However, we also need charterers to join the debate and to commit to supporting emissions-reduction technologies.

WMN: Speaking about the digital transformation in the maritime industry, many companies seem to be reluctant to take on the changes. Judging by the implementation speed of the new technologies, could we say that the industry is in denial?

Ruppelt: There will always be a tension between the claims made by technology innovators, who are understandably passionate about what they believe their solutions can deliver, and the threshold that must be satisfied before a shipping company gets out its cheque book. For an owner, the cost of getting it wrong can be very high. I wouldn’t say that the industry is in denial, but everyone is a little cautious about being the first mover when it comes to new technologies. I would describe Ardmore as an early adopter, if not a pioneer, and we have certainly seen the benefits of embracing new technology.

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