Shown above is a vessel under construction at the shipyard of Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea. The company vows to develop self-driving vessels by 2030. Photo courtesy of HHI

World’s top shipbuilder works on unmanned maritime vessels

Everyone thinks about unmanned vehicles on the road, but some are working on autonomous ships at sea, which is expected to come to town in the not-so-distant future.

And behind such efforts to achieve the dream lies Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), the world’s largest shipbuilder that vows to develop self-driving vessels by 2030.

The Seoul-based company’s chief executive Lee Sang-kyun sent a YouTube message to employees this week in time with its 50th anniversary.

In the footage, Lee said that HHI will come up with a remote-controlled ship by 2025 and a fully autonomous ship by 2030.

He also said that the corporation would almost double its revenue from $7.2 billion last year to $13 billion in 2025. The 2030 goal is set at $17 billion.

“The two top priorities in the shipbuilding industry are unmanned ships and eco-friendly technology. We have briskly carried out research on both areas,” an HHI official said.

“In particular, unmanned ships are significant in finding out optimal routes and reduce maritime accidents, which are typically caused by human errors.”

The South Korean government is also conducting a project to help the industry debut self-driving vessels.

Japan, home to other shipbuilding powerhouses, also has pulled out all the stops to develop autonomous ships.

Experts point out that autonomous driving technology is far more crucial at sea than on the road.

The competition is projected to be stiff to first launch vessels without any crew members.

The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at or 82-2-6956-6698.