Legal aspects of Autonomous ships

yep rogue states like the USA will want to put someone in prison, its like they all get a bonus when the handcuffs go on

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Calm down!! Autonomous vessels are “work in progress” that will take years to mature.
Various technologies are being tested in many parts of the world, but so far always with qualified people onboard and ready to take charge, if required.

When the people are finally remove from the ships there will be qualified maritime personnel manning the onshore remote operation centres.

Who will have the legal responsibilities once ships are actually operating autonomously in international waters? IMO is working on rules for that right now:

I would be more worried about the navies experimenting with unmanned “fighting platforms” with far less “adult supervision” than what is in place for civilian ditto.

PS> Remotely operated ROVs/UAVs and surface drones performing survey work has been used in Offshore industries for some time, though.

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Autonomous transport is fine for inanimate things but a ferry is full of people. One of the most interesting way of employing drones was in Rwanda, in Africa, where they were delivering medical supplies and blood plasma to outlying hospitals and clinics. There is a place for them but not with passengers.

The engineer can handle that, too.

Moving the ECR to the bridge, or v.v.?

Actually both will eventually be move ashore, to be remotely monitored by qualified maritime personnel working shifts and living at home.

Removing the need for living quarters and all systems required for life support when having a crew on board This will reduce the cost of construction, maintenance and free up space for cargo.

PS> Maybe have a small messroom and pantry with a fridge, microwave oven and a couple of chemical toilets for service personnel while in port?

Can’t find it now, but I remember a cartoon where the Captain were the only person left onboard, with a parrot for company. Text whent something like this:
“Why is the parrot there”?
“So the Captain have someone to talk to”
“What is the purpose of having a Captain”?
“To feed the parrot”


BTDT the semi I worked on had all the engine room controls in the bridge as the DPO’s controlled it.
No manned engine room spaces.
Dead simple to put that ashore

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How will someone gain the real world experience and qualifications to command a ship from a control room ashore. In my time at sea I came across a fair number of unusual circumstances that I had to deal with .
There is also the vexed question as to whether a foreign flag ship could make a coastal voyage between two ports of another country.

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It’ll take some years before nobody with real world experience will be around to fill the jobs ashore,
It will also be many years before there are no ships sailing the oceans for people to gain real world experience on.

As to cabotage compliance that should be even simpler for ships with no crew.
For JA compliance that would still mean that the ship have to be US built and US owned.

The day is getting closer when ships navigate autonomously across oceans:

The technology are being developed and tested worldwide.
International Maritime Laws will take longer to change to allow “Periodic Unmanned Bridge” during international passage.

PS> “Periodic Unmanned Engine Room” has been around for decades: (UMS or E0 Class notation)

Autonomous shipping to get satellite connectivity breakthrough

Autonomous shipping to get satellite connectivity breakthrough - Container News (

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I think this is likely. I suspect it will be a team of people on call with each team monitoring a 3-5 autonomous ships. Honestly I feel like the bridge could have been mostly automated since the 1990s and fully automated by the 2010s but the regulators deciding on if humans were needed were always ex-captains of various flag states. Think how many maritime accidents have been caused by human error…

Engine side of things will be challenging, but if you make the design using a duct keel as a heat sink it could probably be done today. Keeping salt water out of the engine room is a hard sell for a design since its such a cheap and readily accessible way to cool things but it would be very much needed for this. Then as long as you use wound spiral style gaskets on everything it would just need a scheduled maintenance period where essentially you remove everything in the ER and replace with new while the old stuff gets rebuilt. Just keep a few tanks for filling up various fluids/oil up top on deck and occasionally refill/ and pump ashore minimal bilge leakage.

If you want to rebuild equipment on the ship it’ll be out of commission too long unless it is a shipyard. Plus it’d be a real loss of the benefit of going autonomous… either conditions on board are made to be livable or they aren’t… if you bring crews onto the ship you still need lighting, stairwells, ventilation and don’t forget the tools and space needed to do rebuilds (and you’ll need a large workshop, and working area around the equipment if you want to bring a crew large enough to rebuild a lot of equipment all at once… cranes/lifting gear and so on. Then the ships looses a major benefit of having a crew and that is continual maintenance while running. You’d also have all these tools/equipment to maintain the ship that are only getting used during a major service.

Just make the engine space a series of cartridges that you insert and weld in as a block. No wasted space, no worries about livability, no extra wiring for useless aux electrical systems… Just design it well enough to last 5-10 years and then cut it out and weld in a new block. Design the hookups to be flanged and wire connections at the cut points and it could be done fairly easily.

The title of this thread seems obvious and yet I see a discussion drifting into some technical details and media accounts/announcements of what has been already achieved in this area.

Of course i highly appreciate alias Ombugge great enthusiasm :wink: being myself huge believer that , there will be a day, such phenomenon like autonomous cargo ships ( not fancy multimilion dollar toys ) will colonise all seas and bring some profit to their owners.

Alias Ombugge being an ace in research will surely find us the cost of his favorite YARA BIRKELAND and how does it compare with lets say brand new handysize bulker in 2023 prices.

We have autonomous craft exploring Mars , then why not having such toys much closer . The huge success of marsian crafts can be attributed to the obbvious fact , that there is no human opereted craft in their most immediate vicinity and it is not carring profit earning cargo and/or paxes from A to B and there is no, at least 1000 year old law/traditions/customs governing such commercial adventures on Mars. So far as I know ( i may be wrong of course) there is no algorithm yet, predicting human stupidity ,greed, ill will, arrogance and ignorace .

I am currently reading below publication and have extracted for the kind persusal of forum members it’s last chapter in which the authour is looking at MASS issue through the prism of master criminalisation, which this publication is all about.

Since i have read a lot more on that particular issue( legal problems with MASS) , i can honestly say , the author is barely touchng the surface of the legal problems associated with MASS which need to be resolved and I am sure alias Ombugge and myself will be long dead before it happens. However one must say , He ( the author) looked at the MASS legal problem from quite an interesting perspective.

Responsibility and Accountability in Maritime Law_Criminalisation of the Ships Master 1Ed 2022.pdf (7.8 MB)

Soon i will fetch another publication which digs deeper , much deeper into an issue on which the above extract has barely scratched the surface.


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As promised pls find below a tiny recap of of legal issues facing regulators before autonomous ships will rule the seas.
The text is only a tip of an iceberg and more to come in a greater and even frightening detail.

legal issues on autonomous ships.pdf (769.3 KB)

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Captain Oddbjorn Mauritz Bugge does not use an alias.

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Upon inspecting the content of this thread I am impressed with your present contribution to this particular topic.

Trust it has been done with kind permission of Cpt Oddbjorn Mauritz Bugge to reveal his true identity . I suspected He is/was the Master/Capt due to his exceptional eloquence and extraordinary scope of maritime knowledge, which seems to be unchallenged here.

We were not introduced to each other as I believe He is completely not interested in my true identity although He perfectly identified my nationality, when others failed miserably.

Thx for the tip as I can now properly adress Him as Capt.

Have a wonderful rest of your day.

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His full name has been bandied about here before. I think nominating as “alias Ombugge” is uncouth. Do you speak of “alias Jdcavo”? I am reading your excerpt and paper with interest though I doubt I will have anything substantive to say about them.

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I am reading the forum content with some degree of diligence but have not dug too deep into " before" .But stay assured I will.

As to the qualification " uncouth " I am sure as per below pic, the degree of inappropriateness is negligible in this particular case and I am sure Capt Oddbjorn Mauritz Bugge will wave the need to engage self-proclaimed solicitor to represent Him, as I believe He is capable of representing himself.