Latest in a long line of concept ships, Rolls-Royce Marine’s Electric Blue includes some novel ideas based around a modular platform that allows for power systems, accommodation and control centres to be located in any of several locations.
Based on an industry-standard 1,000teu feeder vessel, the ships could easily be modified to suit local conditions and regulations by replacing systems as appropriate for the route being served. The concept is scalable and the company says that 4,000teu variants are feasible.
Although the ship could be provided with crew accommodation, it would also be ‘autonomy’ ready allowing the containerised crew quarters to be replaced with remote control systems at some future point. The concept foresees swappable power systems that could be diesel, LNG or battery fuelled. Fuel and power systems could be located so as to allow a ballast-free vessel. The modular units could be shared between vessels in a fleet and with standard connections a vessel could easily be re-configured during a single port stay.
He ship would need to be fitted with a fully redundant sensor array involving cameras, radar and lidar in order to be operated even in the least autonomous mode because of the layout of the vessel. Rolls-Royce are of the opinion that such a vessel could be imminent and believe that fully autonomous versions will be common place by 2050.
For a fully manned version to be allowed, current IMO regulations would need to be dramatically revised especially with regard to bridge layout and visibility requirements. Beyond that there are many other commercial, security and regulatory aspects to overcome because of the international dimension to shipping.