Autonomous ship regulation will prove far more tricky than developing the required technology

Autonomous ship regulation is a bigger challenge than the technology, Splash readers believe.

Our latest topical shipping survey, MarPoll, has just 11 days to run. As it stands 84% of you believe that regulating autonomous vessels is far more tricky than developing and incorporating the necessary technology.

“Its been technically possible for three decades. But it’s just a silly idea. (Er, stowaways, anyone?),” one reader wrote while voting.

A number of tech firms are ploughing ahead with autonomous ship projects at the moment.

The vote is taking place hot on the heels of last week’s Future of Shipping session at the Maritime CEO Forum in Singapore where Frank Coles, the boss of marine IT giant Transas, said: “The way technology is changing now it will be impossible for IMO to catch up and then they are dead and buried.”

Full results of the latest MarPoll will be carried in the next issue of Maritime CEO magazine due out later this month. Other questions posed include a look at newbuild prices, tanker consolidation, making shipping a more attractive career option for today’s youth and bunker fuel levies among other issues. To vote takes just two minutes – although we do appreciate readers leaving comments – and there is no need for any registration. To vote click here.


  1. Houston we have a problem.

    People don’t understand the definitions and keep mixing unmanned with autonomous.

    Advanced digital technology will change the face of the maritime model and the ship. this includes the ability to run autonomous. I am not saying unmanned, because it doesn’t matter. It is almost irrelevant.

    The efficiencies, the safety, the operational accuracy and anomaly detection and predictive and decision support values will far outweigh this endless discussion about unmanned ship.

    By the way an unmanned ship does not have to be autonomous. It can be remotely operated from ashore.

    As for the regulators. Sorry guys, just like ECDIS has way more functions than the regulators require. The new systems will have way more capability than the regulators can think of. The systems will be put in place and used, and then eventually the regulators will write rules to allow them to be used… only they will already be used.

    Lets be clear, we have autopilot, the next step could be …. Auto collision avoidance, or steering from ashore or ship traffic control telling you what to do.

    But when we ask the question, lets ask the right question about the right kind of ship.

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