How autonomous ships can best be regulated

How autonomous ships can best be regulated

Published: 15/05/2019

The Maritime & Coastguard Agency and the wider industry will be looking to build on the autonomous cargo run that has taken place across the North Sea. 

It’s all part of a long-term plan to look at how autonomous ships can best be regulated and is being worked on by the MCA, via the MARLab project funded by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy   


In the past few days a remotely operated vessel has made the crossing from West Mersea to Oostende and back.  Dr Katrina Kemp is the Smart Shipping and Automation Policy Officer for the MCA.  She said: ‘We’re working with the industry to look at how best we can regulate autonomous vessels in UK waters. This cargo run was a great opportunity to look at how the vessel would perform in what is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.  


‘This has all sorts of possibilities for the future of shipping in terms of reducing carbon emissions by using less fuel and also allows vessels to go to places or situations that could put people at risk.’  

Several agencies along with the MCA supported the crossing, including the Department for Transport and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 


In January, DfT published a long-term strategy for the UK maritime sector. Maritime 2050 aims to ensure the UK is at the forefront of technological advancements, including maritime autonomy, to transform and grow our maritime workforce and be bold and ambitious in progressing clean maritime growth.