Report: Despite Automation, Qualified Transport Workers Still Needed in the Future

The introduction of automation in global transport will be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary and despite high levels of automation, qualified human resources with the right skill sets will still be needed in the foreseeable future, a new report produced by the World Maritime University finds.

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Specifically, the report entitled “Transport 2040: Automation Technology Employment – the Future of Work” says that autonomous ships will not replace conventional cargo ships which could result in the loss of seafarer jobs.

The task of seafarers will change to more digital ones, especially in operations monitoring and system management and in less operational work. As pointed out, the seafarer of the future will benefit by combining maritime skills with the digital ones.

When it comes to the port sector, the workforce in ports needs training and reskilling. Although port automation is developing rapidly, some automation processes in ports still face considerable technical impediments, according to the report.

Apart from the seaborne sector, the report focuses on other major transport sectors, investigating how the global transport industry will change as a result of automation and advanced technologies, forecasting and analyzing trends and developments with an emphasis on the implications for jobs and employment.

Key findings indicate that technological advances are inevitable, but will be gradual and vary by region. Workers will be affected in different ways based on their skill levels and the varying degrees of preparedness of different countries. Case studies, as well as comparisons of autonomy scales and automation potential for job profiles in transport provide insight to the future of work.

Regarding maritime transport, the report looks at seventeen countries more specifically to assess how prepared they are for technical innovation.

The report notes that new technologies and automation are impacting transport sector workers through both the displacement and creation of jobs, and may result in difficult transitions for many employed in the transportation sector. The future of work needs to ensure that workers are suitably qualified and re-trained to effectively master new technologies and higher levels of automation.

Kitack Lim, International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General, opened the launch event on January 15 noting that integrating new and advancing technologies in the regulatory framework for the shipping industry is a key strategic direction for IMO.

“Member States and the industry need to anticipate the impact these changes may have and how they will be addressed,” he stated.