Gentle wave or tsunami? The impact of unmanned and autonomous shipping on the law of the sea

01 October 2023 → 30 September 2027
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • International law
law of the sea unmanned shipping autonomous shipping
Project description

The idea of autonomous or remotely controlled ships, sailing the oceans without a crew on board, might sound futuristic, but could soon become a reality. By relying more and more on modern technology and artificial intelligence, human errors can be eliminated and the overall performance, efficiency and safety of maritime transport could be boosted dramatically. Evidently, the extent and pace of these developments will hinge on overcoming technological, commercial and social hurdles, but legal challenges also play a prominent role. Although the majority of these legal issues are situated in the fields of maritime law (covering the legal status of ships, competences and responsibility of the master, maritime incidents and liability in this regard) and maritime transport law (governing the transport of persons and goods at sea), unmanned and autonomous shipping will likewise have an impact on the law of the sea, as the relevant rules and provisions of this important branch of public international law which determines the rights and duties of states in marine areas were also designed with conventional ships – controlled by a master and manned by a crew – in mind. The proposed research project aims to analyze the impact of unmanned and autonomous shipping on the law of the sea by mapping the adequacy of the current rules and provisions, evaluating potential adjustments and assessing the manner in which they could be implemented.