That scenario is now coming closer to reality as the EU project MUNIN looks into the feasibility of robotic freighters and the hurdles they must overcome.
Project MUNIN is made up of eight partner companies led by Germany's Fraunhofer institute and coordinated in Sweden. Meanwhile, the Scandinavian research organization SINTEF, though its Marinitek subsidiary, has invested NOK12 million (US$1.8 million) in the project. MUNIN's task is to identify the factors that will go into automated freighter operation, the challenges and obstacles involved, and the best way to make the changeover from manned to unmanned shipping.
SINTEF sees a time within twenty years when 200 m (660 ft) robotic cargo ships will be a reality.