Autonomous Ships

An interview with Prof. Martin Davies

Captains, Masters, Pilots and Software

Autonomous unmanned ships will be on the high seas in a few short years. Rolls-Royce demonstrated the world’s first fully autonomous ferry in 2018 navigating through an archipelago using sensors and artificial intelligence to avoid collisions and dock, all without human steering. And several companies in the Nordic countries, Japan, and South Korea are building autonomous bulk carriers that have the potential to upend the shipping industry The high seas and the maritime industry are regulated by a complex web of domestic and international regulations. At the international level, many of the conventions and protocols governing the seas were drafted in the 1970s-80s and premised on a crew and master being onboard the ship. How will these laws address the fully automated crewless ships of the near future? Professor Martin Davies, Director of Tulane Law's Maritime Law Center, explains the core interpretational issues, including collision liability, duties of the master of the ship, and pilotage.


  • Attorney CLE accreditation 

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