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The Future of Shipping is Green and Autonomous

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Space travel may be exciting, and self-driving cars certainly get a lot of hype.

However, there remains a good argument that the world’s oceans – and the ships that roam them – often get overlooked when it comes to advances in transportation technology.

How will shipping change in the coming years, and what trends can we look to for guidance on the future of shipping?

The Future of Shipping

Today’s infographic comes to us from Futurism, and it gives examples of ships already in production – or in the concept phase – that aim to make activity on the world’s oceans greener and more autonomous.

The Future of Shipping is Green and Autonomous

How does the future of shipping shape up?

There are two main trends that emerge from these upcoming ships: an increased use of alternative energy and higher levels of automation.

Greener Ships

Fuel accounts for about half of the operating costs of the shipping industry – so the type of fuel used to move ships between ports is paramount. Since the 1960s, heavy fuel oil (HFO) has been the dominant choice for the industry. It’s cheap and plentiful, but it’s also extremely dirty.

Shipping today only produces 3% of carbon dioxide emissions – but it’s areas like sulphur (15% of global total) and particulate emissions (11% of total) that are considered a bigger problem.

As a result, the industry is not only moving to use cleaner oil-based fuels – but some companies are aiming to use alternative energy as well. In the ships above, you’ll see the addition of LNG and fuel cells, as well as the use of solar and wind to help power the future of shipping.

More Autonomous Ships

Ships won’t only be powered differently – they will be navigated and steered using artificial intelligence along with the aid of commercial drones.

Rolls-Royce is building an autonomous smart ship right now with Google that will monitor its surroundings in intense detail, while making autonomous decisions on the deep seas.

Autonomous shipping is the future of the maritime industry. As disruptive as the smartphone, the smart ship will revolutionize the landscape of ship design and operations”

– Mikael Mäkinen, President, Rolls-Royce Marine

Implementing this technology on the high seas has a longer development cycle than that for autonomous vehicles, but that doesn’t mean the idea is dead in the water.

It just means we’ll have to wait a little longer to see the future of shipping in action – and for now, the prospect of viewing all of the world’s ships in real-time will just have to suffice.

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Ranked: The World’s Largest Lithium Producers in 2023

Three countries account for almost 90% of the lithium produced in the world.

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Voronoi graphic showing the top lithium producers in 2023.

The World’s Largest Lithium Producers in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Three countries—Australia, Chile, and China—accounted for 88% of lithium production in 2023.

In this graphic, we list the world’s leading countries in terms of lithium production. These figures come from the latest USGS publication on lithium statistics (published Jan 2024).

Australia Leads, China Approaches Chile

Australia, the world’s leading producer, extracts lithium directly from hard-rock mines, specifically from the mineral spodumene.

The country saw a big jump in output over the last decade. In 2013, Australia produced 13,000 metric tons of lithium, compared to 86,000 metric tons in 2023.

RankCountryLithium production 2023E (metric tons)
1🇦🇺 Australia86,000
2🇨🇱 Chile44,000
3🇨🇳 China33,000
4🇦🇷 Argentina9,600
5🇧🇷 Brazil4,900
6🇨🇦 Canada3,400
7🇿🇼 Zimbabwe3,400
8🇵🇹 Portugal380
🌍 World Total184,680

Chile is second in rank but with more modest growth. Chilean production rose from 13,500 tonnes in 2013 to 44,000 metric tons in 2023. Contrary to Australia, the South American country extracts lithium from brine.

China, which also produces lithium from brine, has been approaching Chile over the years. The country increased its domestic production from 4,000 metric tons in 2013 to 33,000 last year.

Chinese companies have also increased their ownership shares in lithium producers around the globe; three Chinese companies are also among the top lithium mining companies. The biggest, Tianqi Lithium, has a significant stake in Greenbushes, the world’s biggest hard-rock lithium mine in Australia.

Argentina, the fourth country on our list, more than tripled its production over the last decade and has received investments from other countries to increase its output.

With all the top producers increasing output to cover the demand from the clean energy industry, especially for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, the lithium market has seen a surplus recently, which caused prices to collapse by more than 80% from a late-2022 record high.

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