The international shipping industry has shown much focus on autonomous ships, with several research projects launched so far. Potential advantages from autonomous ships include enhanced safety at sea and onshore, as human error could be significantly minimized, increase in cost-efficiency, environmental benefits with introduction of new technologies, optimization in the supply chain via IT solutions and improved infrastructure for transport to and from islands.

Aiming to be a frontrunner in terms of technological development and autonomous maritime solutions, and strictly in line with Blue Denmark vision, the country has raised calls for the availability of the right framework conditions, so that neither technical nor regulatory barriers present a hindrance.

Regulatory barriers on autonomous ships/ Credit: DMA

According to DMA, regulatory barriers are merely a part of the overall formula for society’s response to autonomous ships. In addition to regulatory barriers, a number of other circumstances, as illustrated herebelow, are decisive for the use of autonomous ships. These circumstances mutually affect each other, thus increasing the complexity.

Circumstances of importance to the development of autonomous ships / Credit: DMA

DMA recommends that autonomous ships are, to the widest possible extent, regulated internationally by the IMO to ensure that they can operate in as large a geographical area as possible and to avoid jurisdictional issues. In view of this, EU should await the scope and subjects included in the IMO regulation of autonomous ships before introducing regulatory initiatives.

Considering the complexity of current shipping regulation, DMA also suggests that focus should be on incorporating autonomous ships into the existing regulatory frame, as new regulation should only cover areas unique to autonomous ships that existing regulation does not take account of.

Regulatory approaches to autonomous ships (conceptual)/ Credit: DMA

Further details may be found by reading the official report herebelow: