Report on maritime automation legislation pays attention to ensuring safety

Ministry of Transport and Communications
Publication date 30.11.2020 10.59
Press release
Cargo ship at sea, heading towards the port (Photo: Shutterstock)
Cargo ship at sea, heading towards the port (Photo: Shutterstock)

Maritime automation aims for safer, more efficient and more sustainable water transport. In the face of automation, legislation should pay particular attention to ensuring safety, according to a study on the automation of maritime transport and the regulation of autonomous vessels, commissioned by the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

Finland's goal is to be a pioneer in maritime automation, from the viewpoint of both technological development and legislation enabling its implementation. The study on the development of maritime automation is part of the preparatory work for the action plan and legislative plan on maritime automation.

The study has charted the international and Finnish and Norwegian national regulations concerning the Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship (MASS), and has described the current state of regulation and development needs. According to the study, autonomy requires general safety requirements for the operation and technology of ships, in particular to ensure navigability. Autonomous ships are vessels capable of operating independently or remotely controlled.  

The study also presents autonomous ship technologies, focusing on the technology, algorithms, and machine learning models required in autonomous navigation systems. In addition, it deals with legislation on tests to be carried out in the Baltic Sea, and the development of such legislation.

According to the study, various tests of maritime automation are possible under the current regulations with minor changes, if the local authorities approve the activity. Permanent transport, on the other hand, requires changes to regulations in both national and international law. The observations of the study can be utilised in the planning of legislation in Finland and in the preparatory work carried out by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

European Commission event on maritime automation and the international workshop of the Ministry of Transport and Communications

Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka is releasing the report, commissioned by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, at the 2nd International Ship Autonomy and Sustainability Summit of the European Commission on 30 November 2020.

The results of the study will be presented in more detail at an international virtual workshop organised by the Ministry and its partners on 1 December 2020, in parallel with the Commission's event. The workshop will address the regulatory framework of autonomous maritime transport, the development of artificial intelligence and liability issues.

The study report, Charting Regulatory Frameworks for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship Testing, Pilots, and Commercial Deployments is available on the Government website.


Anne Miettinen, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 40 754 9862, Twitter: @AnneMiettinen1

Saara Reinimäki, Director of Unit, tel. +358 50 303 3065, Twitter: @saarare