1 Setting the scene

Within the next years, the concept of a ship navigating unmanned without a master and crew on board is expected to become feasible. Interestingly, unmanned ship technology is rapidly developing, and major stakeholders are presently investing in unmanned shipping. The first autonomous unmanned container ship is expected to be delivered in 2018 by a Norwegian shipbuilder while the topic of autonomous ships was included by the International Maritime Organisation in the agenda of the next Maritime Safety Committee. Undoubtedly, the unmanned ship technology is expected to be widely discussed in the following years. It might affect the landscape of ship design, management and operation since it has never been possible to navigate, operate and commercially exploit a ship without a master and crew on board. Therefore, the implementation of unmanned shipping could have an impact on multiple levels, namely technical, operational, economic, legal and regulatory. The present contribution will examine legal and regulatory implications of the unmanned ship operation with the aim to raise awareness to the stakeholders on potential regulatory compliance issues and legal liabilities.

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