The project

AUTOSHIP – Autonomous Shipping Initiative for European Waters – aims at speeding-up the transition towards a next generation of autonomous ships in EU.

The project will build and operate 2 different autonomous vessels, demonstrating their operative capabilities in Short Sea Shipping and Inland Water Ways scenarios, with a focus on goods mobility.

The new autonomous ships will help ship operators and owners to improve the economy of scale of their investments, to effectively gain competitiveness and renew their fleets, making them more competitive to replace road transport: they will reduce costs and improve the overall efficiency on-board (less fuel and logistic procedures) based on an advanced technology for monitoring, data fusion and communication with a more evolved network. Interoperability and IoT will increase safety, security and speed of every operation.

The use cases developed within the project will optimize efforts and investments in order to advance common standards and enabling operations in a shorter timeframe than expected: this will allow commercial applications of the technology behind the next generation of autonomous ships by the end of 2023.

To reach this goal a holistic approach is used, involving the logistics value-chain, the maritime authorities and the decision makers to define the right acceptance criteria, design parameters and cost-effectiveness and to assess the right communication for broad societal acceptance.

Regulatory, societal, economic, (cyber)security and safety analyses will be thoroughly completed, leading to a roadmap, Decision Support Tools, methodologies and standards for future adopters and developers. A proposal to IMO for amending and improving regulation will be delivered at the end of the project, duly motivated by the demonstrators and their testing.

Figure 2 – AUTOSHIP Approach




In AUTOSHIP a joint effort of industrial partners and multi-domain experts, will result in the realisation and demonstration of two vessels and their complete use-cases characterisation during the time frame of the project. To achieve this ambitious target, the AUTOSHIP project will last 54 months addressing 9 Specific Objectives (SO) answering all the challenges of the call.

Building and Operating Autonomous Ship at TRL 7 – The main target of the project is to develop and demonstrate to TRL 7 or above two fully autonomous vessels for Short Sea Shipping and Inland Water Ways services respectively in real environment, an important step forward towards autonomous intercontinental shipping.
Demonstrating Key Enabling Technologies – For both use cases, these will be the first ones out of a series of more vessels to be delivered shortly after the project ends and will be used to demonstrate a complete set of key-enabling technologies (KET) for autonomous operations to achieve level 5 (AL5 in Society of Automotive Engineers).

The developed solutions will bring auto0nomous vessels beyond the current state of the art in terms of Situational awareness and Collision avoidance systems, Remote and Autonomous Navigation, Docking, Ship-shore data communications integration, Cybersecurity, Condition Monitoring and smart maintenance strategies and Technology for interacting with shore-based service providers and port/coastal authorities.

Develop Standard, tools and methods – The demonstrators will aim at verifying on-board safety, security and reliability by testing specific failure scenarios and considering possible malevolent attacks.

The project will develop own technology and IPR, to be brought on the market within 5 years, while defining common development of standards, tools and methodologies for autonomous systems for the benefit of future developers, researchers and practitioners. This will contribute to the acceleration of development within the industry and research community.

Digital Upgrade – On top of on-board and on-shore KETs, advanced simulators and digital tools will be upgraded to better support testing, commissioning, training and operations. They will be built on important assets from previous research, lab experiments and ship on-board testing.
Skilled and Updated Operators – Based on newly identified crew and operators’ skills requirements, best practices, methodologies, tools and training protocols will be defined.
Regulatory and socio-economic Framework – A comprehensive impact analysis will link the KETs and the new vessels capabilities to their interaction with the operations and logistics value-chain. Their effects on operability, reliability and safety will be related to the complex scenarios addressing social and economic dimensions such as jobs, change management and logistics, (cyber)security, liability, international regulation and environment.
Business case and models – Thoroughly investigating this socio-economic framework for autonomous ships adoption and acceptance, the AUTOSHIP project will eventually propose a comprehensive business case analysis with a focus on the two early-adopters use cases and how this knowledge can be transferred to other maritime transport segments.
Roadmap to intercontinental R&A navigation – prepare a roadmap to generalise and apply results to other use-cases in view of scaling-up services for international and intercontinental navigation.
Communication acceptance and dissemination – to achieve the above objectives, the involvement of the necessary stakeholders will be assured, both with one-to-one interaction and by disseminating the results in the marine/maritime industry and forums.



Overcoming Barriers

There are important obstacles and variables which come from social, economic and regulatory perspectives that must be considered and overcome, and which will be addressed in AUTOSHIP.

For this reason, the real-environment demonstration and comprehensive studies will be indeed used to give decision makers as well as the society at large the elements to improve and advance current standards and to remove barriers on the way. Support Decision tools will be provided to all the operators.

The innovative technology, operability and cost decrease will in turn address the socio-economics of waterborne transport.



  • Involving the Risk-Takers, i.e. supply chain or cargo owners who are those willing to take the investments risks since they have much better control over the chain
  • Fostering INCREASE of DEMAND for waterborne shipping: providing suppliers with more opportunities and with a strong reduction of operating costs and more flexibility, AUTOSHIP technology will foster decreased prices for shipping services, supporting an increase of waterborne cargo demand.
  • Upgrading INFRASTRUCTURE: Autonomous ships will offer new possibilities to design the international transport systems, limiting or optimizing CAPEX for the infrastructure. Ships can be built smaller with much lower loss on cost-effectiveness (crew cost, cargo capacity, energy) than conventional ships and can provide more direct routes between source and destination ports. This may reduce the pressure on the large ports and provide better utilization of smaller and less congested ports closer to the ultimate source or destination of the cargo.
  • Defining NEW BUSINESS MODELS: AUTOSHIP will integrate the autonomous ship much closer in the transport chain. This makes the cargo owner or logistics operator a more active party. AUTOSHIP technology will include cargo handling, automatic scheduling and increase safety, sharing information about delivery with port and logistics operators, allowing a better and faster logistic process, ultimately allowing the definition of new business models


  • Improving REGULATION, LIABILITY and POLICY perspectives: To let AUTOSHIP technology cause a tidal impact, legal, insurance and liability issues will need to be reconsidered. In response, AUTOSHIP involves domain expert partners supported by relevant external advisors at regional, national and international levels. With the facilitation of SINTEF, a Strategic Advisory Group will systematically approach the framework of operational requirements, regulations, liabilities and economics, involving the key-stakeholders to revert the framework to be respected.
  • Preparing the DESIGN of the Future autonomous vessels: current inadequacies in regulations limit operability and force redundancy (e.g. manual control aside AI) increasing costs and not encouraging demand for autonomous systems especially for smaller vessels. Technically, AUTOSHIP will deal with this issue introducing cost-effective design and tools for support decision which will get rid of redundancy and get ready for TRL 9, supporting industrial demand.


  • Widespread Communication AUTOSHIP has a challenge in disseminating information about the demonstration cases to the public in a way that keeps them well informed about the benefits and also of the risks and how they are controlled. This also includes the main professional organisations for workers at sea and in ports.
  • Comprehensive Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA): the results that the project will communicate to public and decision makers will not only address demonstrations outputs and technical reports, but they will include thorough cost-benefit analyses. The CBA will include variables such as environment, health, traffic congestion, accidents and fatalities and their changes due to modal-shift from road or rail to water.
  • Impact on Employment: In general, the expectation is that autonomous ships will have an impact, but mainly in requiring a more skilled work force and that it will rely less on sailors working at low wages. Crew reductions can reasonably be introduced gradually for retrofits, conversions and new vessels, during the technological and regulatory upgrades, which means that new technologies will at first cut expenses and foster new demand, opening new market segments and allowing more vessels with less crew. Finally, it will create new employment in the Shore Control
  • Impact on ROAD DECONGESTION and ENVIRONMENT: Former macro analyses demonstrate that at least 87 Mio tonnes of the con­tinental cargo currently transported by road (TAM c.a. 237 Mio tonnes) is suited for intermodal transport along to the existing waterway corridors. The results of AUTOSHIP will unlock the enormous potential impact of waterborne transport to relieve roads and save 88% of GHG emissions to move the same amount of goods per mileage.