Demise of IMO or autonomous ships?
Depends on how much money is at stake and who gets it. The entire technology world will collapse long before regulators release their grip on anything.
A good example and one that impacts my business directly is the IMO and EPA regulation that states only an engine manufacturer can apply for an EIAPP certificate. With the imposition of the NOx ECAs engines above 130kW installed after 1 Jan 2016 are required to meet IMO Tier III (or EPA Tier 4) emissions limits.
The rules were developed before the technology existed to retrofit exhaust “scrubbers” which allow lower Tier engines to meet the lastest standards. At the time the rules were written the only way to meet standards was by internal engine design and.or aftertreatment systems designed specifically for a particular engine by or for the engine manufacturer.
Rewind to the sulfur wars of the early 2000s, because there was no way to limit SOx emissions other than limiting fuel sulfur content, EPA and IMO allowed the emissions control industry to develop and install scrubbers on the stack. Those systems are not part of the engine, they clean the exhaust and anyone who can make a better scrubber is allowed to fit it, show it works, and recieve the blessing of the regulators to operate in the SECAs.
But, here we are now with NOx ECAs and the engine manufacturers are not interested in building or certifying the range of engines required by a large number of vessels. When they do offer an aftertreatment system it is usually so large that it will not fit in older vessels or they require a massive redesign of new builds.
It appears to me that the regulators are more interested in their own regulations (to the benefit of a very few manufacturers) than in the purpose of those regulations. If emissions are the purpose of the regs why is the industry constrained by outdated rules that limit who and how that purpose can be accomplished?
Maybe it will be different with autonomous ships since the industry players have pockets deep enough to buy the regulations needed to sell the hardware.