New Technologies, Artificial Intelligence and Shipping law in the 21st Century

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Autonomous vessels and third-party liabilities: The elephant in the room

Autonomous vessels and third-party liabilities: The elephant in the room

Professor Barış Soyer

1 Introduction

The use of technology to operate underwater vehicles remotely for military and scientific purposes has been a remarkable success and embraced for more than five decades.2 Building on the success enjoyed with regard to the development of the technology concerning remote controlled underwater vehicles, various research projects have been undertaken in the last decade or so with a view to developing autonomous surface vessels which can be employed for commercial purposes. Perhaps the most influential project designed to develop a technical concept for the operation of autonomous merchant vessel and assess its technical, economic and legal feasibility was the Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence Networks (MUNIN) project,3 partially funded by the European Union.4 The MUNIN project was a concept study which aimed to identify the most critical technological, operational and legislative factors that might be obstacles to the realisation of autonomous shipping. The project, which ended in August 2015, has provided a great insight for the future development of autonomous vessels.

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