Automation in shipping: a human-centred approach

Related to: Maritime Transport, Collective bargaining, Digitalisation in shipping

Technological change is transforming our economy, and the shipping industry is no exception. Researchers have made early steps towards fully automated ships, while other new technologies could make the management of shipping much less labour intensive. Innovation is unstoppable, and can bring many benefits for workers and society. But seafarers will face enormous changes, and they have the right to be respected and listened to as their industry transforms. 

At the moment, the European institutions are enthusiastically driving forward innovation in shipping. They actively support researchers and marine manufacturers in the development of automated ships and fully integrated transport systems. ETF and its affiliates across Europe aim to democratise decisions about how and when we use new technologies. We stand ready to play our role in steering this process so that it brings improvements in maritime safety, environmental performance, and the working lives and conditions of maritime professionals. This is how new technologies can realise their full potential to build a shipping industry based on social, economic and ecological sustainability. 

The ETF is prepared to step up and act as an agent of change in support of a smooth technological transition. Our goal is that workers are consulted and supported so that changes result in improved safety, high-quality employment and training for European maritime professionals. We must also defend the sustainability of maritime clusters in Europe, which are of economic and strategic importance. 

Our five guidelines for sustainable digital shipping set out our position on technological change in the sector. They provide European stakeholders with the key principles and approaches needed to ensure that their decisions about the automation of shipping bring the maximum benefits for the economy, workers and the environment. 

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