SEATTLE - Could the captain of a giant container ship stand on a virtual bridge located inside an office building and look out over the middle of the ocean on realistic high definition computer screens, ahead on his ship's path? That is the concept of the future Rolls-Royce is contemplating.

Rolls-Royce is well known for its jet engines. The actual Rolls-Royce company hasn't made luxury cars for decades; the cars are made under license by another firm.

But Rolls also has a large marine division with employees in the United Kingdom, Norway and the U.S.

One group of cutting edge technology thinkers, led by Oskar Levander, at Blue Ocean Concepts in Norway is closely studying the idea of a world of unmanned ships that would save money for shippers and be just as safe as the manned ocean going freighters of today.

A spokesman for Rolls-Royce says the concept is at least a decade from becoming reality, but the technology with high tech global positioning navigation, warning systems and satellite communications could make it a reality now.

But the idea, like aerial drones sharing the airspace with passenger jets, is expected to run into considerable resistance from maritime unions and national and international regulators.

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