City of London solicitor says drones can breathe new life into shipping

Rufus BallasterA partner at a City of London-based law firm has said that drones may hold the key to breathing new life into the shipping industry.

Rufus Ballaster, a Partner at Carter Lemon Camerons LLP and head of the firm’s multidisciplinary drones and autonomous technologies team made the comments after a partnership between Airbus and Wilhelmsen Ships Service was announced in Singapore.

The Port of Singapore project will see drones deliver essential spares, medical supplies and cash to master to vessels up to three kilometres offshore more cheaply and safely than using launch boats.

“The potential of this technology could be immense, completely transforming the shipping industry to a point where it is completely unrecognisable,” said Rufus Ballaster.

“It is entirely plausible that one-day shipping containers will be redesigned to enable deliveries to be made from ship to shore without ever needing to dock.

“A ship could travel up the east coast of the UK having its cargo plucked from it at points all the way from Folkestone to Inverness or beyond, not needing to stop or pay for port-based stevedore unloading at any point.”

He added: “Waterborne freight could become more efficient than road or rail, such that rather than build a huge distribution warehouse near a motorway junction, one might consider a container ship – or a fleet of such ships – as an alternative centre of a hub and spoke distribution process.”

Rufus concluded that this is only the beginning of the potential of drone transportation, saying that once people are comfortable with ship to shore they could become more comfortable with onward drone transportation and delivery over land.

He said: “I expect the law will change to permit this, but only once public opinion embraces rather than fears it.”

Rufus Ballaster has strong credentials in this area, having co-authored a book on the law governing the use of drones. A Practical Guide to Drone Law, by Rufus Ballaster, his fellow Carter Lemon Camerons LLP Partner, Andrew Firman and consultant, Eleanor Clot, aims to bring together the disparate laws and regulations governing the use of drones.