Legal aspects of Autonomous ships

Autonomous Containership Trialed in Japan:

First autonomous ocean crossing by a large commercial vessel:

Still with the bridge fully manned at all times.

SOP in shipping, you need the Captain as the fall guy

Two drone “barges” are on their way from the building yard in India to Norway:

They will initially be manned, but if everything goes to plan they will make their first fully autonomous unmanned crossings on f the Oslo fjord in 2024:

The Autonomous and electrical powered vessel the “YARA BIRKELAND” approaching her berth in Heroya, Norway.
Photo: Capt Peter Reinsma Master of LPG/C/E “Coral Patula”©

PS> There are still a crew onboard for safety and legal reasons. (Only to watch, not touch)

Before you ask; mooring is also autonomous:


1 Like

More actors gets into the act:

The USAF has successfully flown a pilotless AI controlled F-16 in simulated combat missions and AI did all the flying including engaging dog fighting scenarios where it outflies humans. The only spoiler is a lag time from base command to execution of just over a second left to be solved. If we apply the rate of development that AI promises, crewless AI controlled ship and ship traffic control will be commonplace and only fallible humans will create accidents.

Uncrewed vessel operate in Norwegian inshore waters.
Not a very large vessel, but is it the beginning of a new era in short sea shipping?:

Maritime Robotic’s Mariner travels on the new USV freight route in Norway.
Photo courtesy of Maritime Robotics.

Yara Birkeland in BBC:

This is possible because the operation is within the jurisdiction of one country, not in international water. The technology gets tested and problems solved without involving international maritime laws, rules and agreements.

PS> Testing in coastal and international water is also progressing around the world:

Fish feed carrier Eidsvåg Pioneer making 160 n.miles autonomous voyage along Norwegian coast:

A ferry carrying passengers and vehicles powered by fossil fuels crewed by people requiring no marine qualifications beyond controlling the movement of passengers and cars with a Barista perhaps if your lucky can operate. A bit like the autonomous plane. I’m all for having a couple of people at the sharp end who are just as keen on getting their arses back on terra Ferma as I am, for all their faults.


who gets the ticket in an accident, Chatgpt?

1 Like

Well, except for that Malaysian deal. . .wasn’t there a German pilot that flew his plane into a mountain, too? But yes, I agree. Even more importantly, I feel engineers need to be onboard. I have seen too many situations where mechanical issues would have been disastrous without one. . .


engineer is one thing but who is in charge of where its going?

I predict that no matter how autonomous they become, the larger ships will always require at least one officer aboard for each watch at all times. Their main job will solely be to keep resetting the BNWAS. But more importantly, they will be the fall guys that take all the blame when it goes pear shaped.

1 Like