Autonomous ships


BIMCO's position on "autonomous ships" has been approved by the BIMCO Board of Directors.


An autonomous ship can operate for extended periods with various degrees of human input. Three dimensions characterise such a ship: the automated systems in operation, the level of remote control and level of manning. At IMO level, these three dimensions have resulted in four degrees of autonomy. Technological developments have reached such a level that autonomous shipping is becoming a real prospect for international trade.

Cyber risk management will become increasingly important for automated ships. A cyber attack on a critical system in a highly automated ship may influence the safety of the ship, crew and cargo.

The IMO is currently researching how the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of so-called Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) could be introduced into IMO instruments. A significant challenge may exist in adapting the regulatory framework to permit autonomous ships to trade globally in terms of IMO regulations and cargo liability regimes, such as the Hague and the Hague-Visby Rules. Furthermore, there are several challenges ranging from the human element to technical and commercial issues that need to be solved.

BIMCO’s position

BIMCO will take a leading position on the facilitation of trading with autonomous ships:

  • Support a set of standard definitions covering the different levels of automation and methods of control to create a clearer framework for future regulation.
  • Develop a common understanding of the risks and opportunities of autonomous ships.
  • Support the initiatives by the IMO and CMI (Comité Maritime International) to assess the need for changes to international conventions and national laws for autonomous ships to operate worldwide.
  • Recognise the importance of the human element, focus on new competences for seafarers and the need for human relations initiatives to overcome problems such as potential loneliness following the possible reduction of personnel onboard.
  • BIMCO supports international interim guidelines for MASS trials to ensure operational reliability, safety and protection of the environment. 


Rasmus Nord Jorgensen
in Copenhagen, DK

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