Automation: Is it the Future of the Shipping Industry?

The concept of automation can be tricky since, at some point in shipping goods, there’s bound to be at least some form of human interaction. Surprisingly, the shipping industry is slower than adapting to automation innovations, compared to more “techy” industries. But even only a small percentage of cargo and products are being handled by automated machinery and terminals; the industry has been slowly but surely adapting to the general public’s needs.

What are some innovations up the industry’s sleeve? Here’s what you’ll need to know:

Automating Sea Ports

As the name suggests, “shipping” has always been an industry with deep historical ties with bringing in cargo from one country to another through the sea. While shipping can still happen on land and through airways, 80% of international trade of goods are carried by sea, with the percentage being higher among first world countries. With a percentage so high, it’s only logical that many shipping and E-commerce companies invest in their seaports for better logistics of ships.

Once the cargo has arrived in these seaports, they are off-loaded by robots designed and programmed for a particular task. These robotic “arms” and cargo handling units are automated for a good percentage of ports in first world countries. Simultaneously, they are designed to minimize any human interaction with the loading process, resulting in errors.

Many of this robotic equipment can load and stack containers, depending on the category of the cargo. They’re also known for being quite aware of the aspects and dimensions of what they’re loading.

Another known innovation in seaports has unmanned cranes that won’t need any manual supervision. Nowadays, many ports are already sporting both manned and unmanned cranes designed for loading and unloading cargo. This entails that technology used for the automation process has already been put into motion. However, investing in this automotive equipment might require investors to put in the time and money needed to support the industry in the long-term.

Many of these cranes rely on the Internet of Things and technological ecosystems so that each type of equipment can effectively relay data and information back and forth. This makes cranes very efficient and while needing little to no manual supervision. Although most businesses will have to invest a good amount of funds for these cranes, they’ll earn more in the long-run knowing that there’s a minimal margin for errors.


Taking It To The Air With Drones

While the majority of shipping goods and cargo will usually be done through the sea, that doesn’t mean that goods and products can’t be transported through the land and air. Many transportation services and companies will usually utilize planes and trucks to move equipment and logistics around.

In the past few years, corporate giants, such as Amazon, have been utilizing drones to transport products and goods, especially to areas that might be hard to reach by vehicles. Circumventing the terrain using these drones can expedite the delivery process.

Whether it’s for commercial use, for transporting goods, taking breathtaking photos of events, or for military service, drones are considered one of the pinnacles of automation. You don’t have to be in the shipping or E-commerce industry to see the merits of using drones. If you plan to buy drones for commercial and logistic use, you might want to consider some of the best US-made drones in the industry. Not only are they made from the best materials in the business, but they are also professionally-designed and programmed for any use.

Automated Smart Vessels

Automation isn’t just limited to robotics in seaports and airports. If electric cars can operate without a driver, there will be bound to be sea-worthy container vessels that will need little to no manual operation. Can you imagine a ship that doesn’t have any crew but actively transporting goods and products? It’s essentially one of the best designs for the shipping industry. Well, there might be a need for a skeleton crew to address specific emergencies and problems.

Much of these vessels aren’t just concepts or ideas since there are already working prototypes being tested. To ensure that these automated ships are operating in full capacity, wireless monitoring and cloud-based computing are just some of the ways to establish two-way communication between the ship and different seaports.

As of the moment, there are still many “gaps” in the design that need to be ironed out right before these shipment giants are placed in actual application and production. Whether it’s vessels that are remotely controlled or ships with a skeleton crew and are partially controlled, there’s a lot that the future can promise.


There are a variety of ways that automation can help the shipping industry. Whether it’s by sea, land, or air, automating many processes can help ensure that everything is running smoothly while cutting down on the time and energy needed to get the job done. Although the shipping industry still has hoops to go through right before it can incorporate automation into its organizations, the future holds promise for the business.

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