The Impact of Autonomous Ships on Safety at Sea – A Statistical Analysis

Jiri de Vos, Robert G. Hekkenberg*, Osiris A. Valdez Banda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
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The advent of autonomous ships that are unmanned or low-manned will reduce the number of people at risk at sea. Even when autonomous navigation does not reduce the number of accidents, this means that safety at sea will increase. In fact, increased safety is one of the primary perceived drivers for autonomous shipping, although this safety increase has not yet been quantified in academic literature. In this article a statistical analysis is performed to determine the distribution of human casualties and lost ships over accident types, ship types and ship sizes. Subsequently, based on several scenarios for the implementation of autonomous ships, a quantification of the estimated reduction in loss of life and loss of ships is provided. It is concluded that the implementation of autonomy on small cargo ships with a length below 120 m will have the largest safety benefit, since these ships account for the majority recorded ship losses and lives lost.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107558
Number of pages13
JournalReliability Engineering and System Safety
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Autonomous ships
  • Loss of Life
  • Safety at Sea
  • Statistical analysis

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