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Unmanned, autonomous and remote-controlled transport for automated supply chains and improved safety and environmental services were once science fiction. Thanks to advances in information and communication technology (ICT), they are moving ever closer to reality.

The modern ship is bursting with software-controlled systems that are already being sold by many device and system manufacturers. These systems include firmware, operating systems, application software, and network and Internet of Things devices. Since the software determines what they do, they are usually very flexible.

In short, there are few or no technical barriers to autonomous and remote controlled ships. As with other new technologies or their novel applications, the biggest obstacle is trust. In other words, would an autonomous or remote controlled ship also be a safe ship? Can a port authority, ship owner, operator, government and ultimately the public be sure that ships are as safe, efficient and environmentally friendly as if they were manned?

Well thought-out regulation opens the window to the ecosystem of ship owners, designers, equipment manufacturers, operators, charterers, insurers and financiers and gives them a clear overview of what is necessary for autonomous ships to operate safely, efficiently and sustainably.

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