Rolls-Royce Marine Innovation vice-president Oskar Levander has predicted that the first remote-controlled ferry demonstrator could be launched within the next four to five years.

The future advancement in the maritime industry was announced by Levander ahead of the 40th annual Interferry conference- themed technical innovations, to be held in October in Copenhagen.

In a statement, Levander was quoted by media sources as saying: "Today there is a lot of R&D focus on unmanned airplanes and driverless land-based vehicles and society is becoming more prepared to accept these game-changing solutions.

"It is only a question of time as to when shipping will follow the same path."

"It is only a question of time as to when shipping will follow the same path."

According to Levander, the first unmanned commercial ships may be locally operated vessels.

The announcement follows after the company revealed that it is leading a new €6.6m advanced autonomous waterborne applications initiative to develop specification and preliminary designs for the next-generation of advanced ship solutions.

Funded by Tekes, the Finnish funding agency for technology and innovation, the project will incorporate universities, ship designers, equipment manufacturers, and classification societies.

The project is slated to be completed by 2017.

In May 2014, Rolls-Royce’s marine division unveiled a draft design for an unmanned cargo vessel that would be run from a land-based control centre.

Unmanned ships are cost effective, cutting need for sleeping quarters, food supplies, and furniture apart from other amenities necessary for the crew.

In addition, pirate attacks are expected to be reduced by implementing remote-operated ships.