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Autonomous Ships: Regulations Left in Their Wake?

Michael F. MerlieThe following was first published by The Maritime Executive, the largest business journal in the maritime industry, reaching 127 countries. Gawthrop Greenwood partner Michael F. Merlie is a Maritime Executive author. 

The general public is well aware of the continuing development of autonomous vehicles. The media constantly provides stories on the advances of these self-driving cars, trucks and cabs. Autonomous vehicles are expected to increase safety while also resulting in significant cost savings in the transportation of goods.

While not receiving the same amount of media coverage, the technology for autonomous ships is also rapidly developing. Earlier this year, a Norwegian partnership announced plans to build the world’s first fully-autonomous containership. The goal is for manned voyages to begin in 2018, with unmanned voyages to begin in 2020.

For the maritime industry, much of the technology necessary for autonomous vessels is already in place but continues to be adapted. Not surprisingly, the regulatory bodies are moving at a slower pace. While there is debate on the extent of change necessary for the regulation of autonomous vessels, certainly some challenges will be presented.

For more information, contact Michael F. Merlie at or 610-696-8225.

Michael F. Merlie

Michael F. Merlie concentrates his practice in the areas of finance, secured transactions (including creditors’ rights) mergers, acquisitions, admiralty/maritime law, real estate law, and startup businesses.

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