Excessive automation on board merchant ships is endangering safety at sea, Essar Shipping director and CEO Captain Anoop Kumar Sharma warned.
“If there is an equipment malfunctioning at sea, nobody is able to repair,” he told the INMEX-SMM India conference in Mumbai that concluded on 24 September.
He expressed concern during a panel discussion that such a situation might put lives of crew in danger.
“I am not against automation,” Capt Sharma clarified later to IHS Maritime, “but it should be introduced gradually and in phases, giving the crew adequate time to adjust.”
Turning to the outlook for shipping, he pointed out that freight rates remain bleak for dry bulk with no light in sight at the end of the tunnel, though tankers offer some hope.
“Shipowners are struggling even to recover costs,” he said.
Capt Sharma, however, believes it is possible to ride the downturn with innovative strategies and initiatives that would lower costs for shippers.
“For example, if we have some in-house cargo moving along the Indian coast, we can fill up our ships with return cargo offering low rates,” he said.
Capt Sharma reminded delegates during the panel discussion that it is for owners and operators to tap into the vast opportunities in coastal shipping.
The Indian government has targeted to increase the share of coastal shipping in carriage of cargo from 7% to 10% by 2019-20. A substantial portion of goods traverse the vast stretch across India through roads and rail despite a long coastline of 7,500 km.