UK's first Maritime Autonomy Regulation Lab

The autonomous and smart shipping industry is set to receive a boost, after the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Department of Transport (DfT), in collaboration with the National Oceanography Centre’s (NOC) Marine Robotics Innovation Centre, successfully secured £1million in a bid to accelerate the UK into a world-leading position in this area.

The funding, awarded by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Regulators Pioneer Fund, will be used to pioneer new ways of regulating the autonomous and smart shipping industries to help them deliver innovative new technologies to the traditional maritime sector.

The global autonomous shipping industry is predicted to grow into a $136 billion behemoth by 2030, with UK businesses already playing a key role. The funding will see the creation of the Maritime Autonomy Regulation Lab, where regulators from the MCA and DfT can work with academia and support industry to promote on-water testing and flagship projects and help the UK grow its presence in the global marketplace.

Mr Aidan Thorn, Manager of the NOC’s Marine Robotics Innovation Centre said, “The NOC, alongside partners in our Innovation Centre, are at the forefront of the innovation that will enable greater utilisation of marine autonomy. As these technologies become more prevalent in the ocean the need to regulate their operation also increases. This new Lab will enable key stakeholders to engage in this important element of autonomous operations at sea.”

Sir Alan Massey, CEO of the MCA said, “Autonomous shipping will play an increasing role in the future of the maritime industry. This new funding represents an enormous opportunity to accelerate the great work we’re doing to support our maritime industries. We have already seen an extraordinary demand for this regulatory work and we are confident that we can drive forward future-ready regulations, to be best placed to respond to the challenges and opportunities this fast-moving industry will bring.”