The United States is often looked upon as a nation whose most significant export is technology. The comparatively free market economy, in conjunction with the culture, has fostered extraordinary innovation. The US is generally a producer of high-value concepts and an outsourcer of low-value production. To materially objectify this, one needs to look no further than the smartphone in your pocket—the unicorn invention of the 21st century, born from the minds in Silicon Valley and manufactured abroad. Despite the nation’s wealth in natural marine infrastructure, this trend is observably reversed for its own maritime industry.
Today the cutting edge of seafaring technology is inarguably Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS). Whether these systems function to reduce a crew’s workload, or entirely displace a redundancy of manned vessels, autonomy has the potential to propel the commercial industry into a new era of value. As such, the world’s leading maritime nations have embarked upon a series of initiatives to proactively capitalize on the opportunity as it begins. From the EU to Russia, South Korea and Japan, governments and industry are investing considerable sums to capture the early opportunity and fortify their shipping economy. Oddly, or perhaps characteristically, the United States appears to have limited national interest in the commercial advantages of MASS. With headline news rife with articles on self-driving automobiles, there is a very different story developing behind the doors of the Pentagon.
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