How Autonomous ships are revolutionizing the maritime industry?

Navigating the high seas. Shankar Nishant a researcher at Next Move Strategy Consulting investigates how Autonomous ships are revolutionizing the maritime industry. This is an exclusive article for the readers of Maritime Professionals on Autonomous Ships.


The maritime industry has seen a lot of changes and advancements over the years. The latest development in autonomous shipping technology is set to change the face of shipping forever. Autonomous ships are already being tested and trailed, and many industry experts predict that they will soon become the norm in shipping operations.

What are autonomous ships?

Autonomous ships known as unmanned ships, are vessels that are capable of operating without human intervention. They are equipped with a range of advanced technologies, such as sensors, navigation systems, and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies enable them to make decisions and operate safely and efficiently. The aim behind the development of autonomous ships is to make shipping safer, more efficient and cost-effective than before, while reducing the need for human crew members on board.

How they are changing the maritime Industry

Autonomous ships are revolutionizing the maritime industry by introducing new technologies, processes, and business models that have the potential to transform the way ships traditionally operate. The benefits of these ships include improved efficiency and safety of ships, data-driven operations, and increased capabilities such as remote and autonomous operations.

Improved efficiency and safety: Autonomous ships are equipped with advanced technologies such as AI, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT), which can help optimize vessel operations, enhance safety, and reduce the possibility of human error.

Data-driven operations: Autonomous ships generate a vast amount of data, which can be analyzed to improve decision-making, reduce costs, and enhance safety. The use of machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics can help identify patterns, predict outcomes, and optimize vessel operations.

Remote and autonomous operations: Autonomous ships can be controlled from shore-based control centers by using real-time data and communications systems. They can monitor and control the ship’s movements, navigation, and other operational functions. This allows ships to be operated with greater efficiency, reduced costs, and enhanced safety.

6 Leading companies working on autonomous ships

Rolls-Royce |

Rolls-Royce has been working on developing autonomous shipping technology for several years. The company has developed a range of systems and technologies, including autonomous navigation, vessel, and control. In September 2021, Rolls-Royce announced partnership with Sea Machines. Under this partnership, both companies will work together to develop fully- and semi-autonomous vessel control systems. These systems are expected to enhance Rolls-Royce’s mtu NautIQ marine automation portfolio.

Kongsberg |

Kongsberg is a Norwegian company that specializes in maritime technology and defence. The company has been constantly working on autonomous ships and collaborating with other ship manufactures. In 2021, Kongsberg and Yara International, announced the launch of the world’s first autonomous and electric container vessel.

Wartsila | Wartsila is a Finnish company that provides power solutions for the marine and energy markets. The company has been developing and providing autonomous shipping solutions such as Wärtsilä Advanced Assistance Systems, Wärtsilä SmartMove, Wärtsilä Smart Sensors, and Wärtsilä Smart Panoramic Edge Camera System. Moreover, in 2020, Wartsila announced a collaboration with ABB to further enhance their autonomous shipping solutions.

ProMare | ProMare is a U.S.-based non-profit organization that is focused on advancing the development of autonomous ships. The organization has been working on autonomous shipping for several years and developed a range of solutions, including autonomous navigation systems. For instance, ProMare is working on an autonomous ship project, called The Mayflower, in partnership with IBM. Under the partnership agreement, IBM will implement its AI, automation, cloud, and edge technologies to provide a safer and more cost-effective alternative to manned ships.
DNV GL | DNV GL is a Norwegian-based company that provides technical advisory and risk management services for the maritime and energy industries. In April 2022, DNV in collaboration with Kongsberg Maritime, Kongsberg Seatex, Bastø Fosen, and NTNU announced the launch of SAFE Maritime Autonomous Technology (SAFEMATE) project. Under this project, the companies will work on improving and assessing the safety and efficiency of autonomous navigation systems and deploy a pilot on an operational ferry, the Bastø VI.
ABB | ABB is a Swiss-based company that provides power and automation technologies. The company has been working on autonomous shipping, and developed a range of solutions. For instance, in 2020, the company collaborated with Keppel Marine and Deepwater Technology (KMDTech). ABB will jointly develop the technology for autonomous vessels and retrofit a 32-meter harbour tugboat with leading-edge digital solutions in the Port of Singapore.

    The Challenges & Solutions for Autonomous Ships

    While autonomous ships offer many benefits, there are also some challenges associated with this technology as follow:

    Regulation: The deployment of autonomous ships faces significant regulatory challenges, including the lack of international standards, complex regulatory compliance, lengthy approval processes, and uncertainty around liability and insurance. The maritime industry must work with governments and regulators to develop clear and consistent standards for the deployment of autonomous ships.

    This will ensure that the technology is developed and deployed in a safe and responsible manner, and ship owners and operators can comply with regulatory requirements. Addressing these regulatory challenges will be crucial for the successful deployment of autonomous ships and the continued growth of the maritime industry.

    Technical challenges: Autonomous ships rely on sensors to provide real-time information about the ship’s environment, such as its location, speed, and direction. These sensors must be able to operate accurately and efficiently in the marine environment, and the data they generate must be processed in real time to support the safe operation of the ship.

    Moreover, autonomous ships require various systems, such as navigation, communication, and power to work together seamlessly. This requires the integration of these systems to be well-designed and tested to ensure that they can operate reliably and efficiently.

    Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity is a major concern when it comes to autonomous ships. As these ships rely heavily on technology, they are vulnerable to cyber-attacks that could compromise the ship’s operations and put the safety of the vessel and its cargo at risk. For example, an attacker can gain access to the ship’s navigation systems and alter its course, causing a collision or putting the ship in danger. Additionally, cyber criminals can gain access to sensitive data stored on the ship, such as personal information or trade secrets, which may have serious consequences.

    To prevent such attacks, it is important for the maritime industry to implement robust cybersecurity measures. This includes encryption technologies to protect data, regular software updates to close any vulnerabilities, and strict access controls to limit who can access sensitive information. Additionally, companies should invest in cybersecurity training for their employees to help them understand the importance of protecting the ship from cyber-attacks and how to identify potential threats.


    The integration of autonomy in the maritime industry is a gradual process, and commercial operators are taking a phased approach toward adopting autonomous technology. This phased approach allows the operators to assess the benefits and limitations of the technology, and make necessary adjustments to ensure its successful integration into their operations. The future of autonomous ships is likely to be very promising if the challenges associated with their adoption can be effectively addressed. They possess a huge potential to enhance safety & efficiency, lower down operational costs, and reduce the impact of shipping operations on the environment.

    This article is shared by courtesy of Shankar Nishant, a researcher at Next Move Strategy Consulting with a cumulative experience of more than four years. Shankar is enthusiastic about new technology, enjoys working with a diverse range of global clients, and has delivered numerous market reports in multiple domains. He can be reached at

    Read more about Autonomous Ship here.


    Narjiss Ghajour

    Editor-in-Chief of Maritime Professionals
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