Denmark Calls for International Regulation of Autonomous Ships

A new report published by the Danish Maritime Authority has called for changes in international maritime regulation to prepare for the introduction of autonomous ships.

“It is important that Denmark and Danish companies are at the forefront of technology and digitalization. The development of autonomous ships is fast-moving and we must be at its forefront,” said Danish Minister for Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, Brian Mikkelsen.

“However, part of current regulation is based on traditions dating back to the age of sail. That needs to improve. The regulation of autonomous ships shouldn’t be a hindrance to further advances and, therefore, (our report) provides important input,” he added.

The report, prepared by the consulting company Rambøll and the law firm CORE for the Danish Maritime Authority, recommends that regulation in the sector be agreed upon internationally, more specifically at the IMO where Denmark says it is working hard to get the topic to the top of the agenda.

The Danish Maritime Authority’s overall approach to regulation of autonomous ships is that autonomous ships must be at least as safe as conventional ships, and the report provides a number of specific recommendations on how Denmark can facilitate and prepare the regulation of autonomous technologies by examining areas like regulations on manning issues, the definition of the term Master, and the permissions needed for a periodically unmanned bridge and electronic lookout.

”We must be able to seize opportunities created by development of new technology. Denmark has a strong maritime tradition and we want to stay in the lead when it comes to development and testing of technology,” said Minister Mikkelsen.

“In a globalised industry, regulation and standards for autonomous ships must be international. This is the only way to ensure significant global development in this area. I am very pleased that Denmark is already pushing this agenda internationally,” he added.

The Danish Maritime Authority strives to create safety at sea and growth in the maritime industries in Denmark. It believes, safety and growth go hand in hand because in Blue Denmark, growth should be based on quality shipping. Its vision is to effectively strengthen Blue Denmark’s conditions of growth and to promote safety and health on clean seas. It’s mission it to make Denmark a leading maritime nation characterized by quality shipping, technology and strong competences. It’s four main responsibilities are: (1) Framework conditions, competition and growth; (2) Safe ships, health and the environment; (3) Safe waters, voyage, and navigation; and (4) Social conditions, seafarers and fishermen.