Proceedings of the

The 33rd European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2023)
3 – 8 September 2023, Southampton, UK

Evaluating the Existing Watchkeeping Regulations as a Baseline for Developing Functional Requirements and Performance Criteria for Uncrewed Vessels

Børge Kjeldstad1,a, D. Kwame Minde Kufoalor2, Jon Herman Ulvensøen3 and Ingrid B. Utne1,b

1Department of Marine Technology, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway.

2Maritime Robotics, Trondheim, Norway.

3University of South-Eastern Norway, Tønsberg, Norway.


The development and deployment of uncrewed surface vessels and vessels with some degree of autonomy is seeing a rapid increase. Use cases cover the offshore industry, aquaculture, seabed mapping, water column monitoring, public transport, cargo freight, security, and more. The expected business opportunities and societal benefits are reduced crew and vessel costs, reduced energy consumption, less HSE exposure for employees, and a potential mitigation to the challenge with less people being willing to take a job at sea. Yet, regulations for such vessels do not exist. This lack of regulations causes challenges for both developers of the vessels and for the authorities who shall approve them. Costs increase, time to market increases, the risk picture is unclear, and the advantages these vessels offer to the maritime sector and stakeholders in the ocean space are not delivered as expedite as possible. The objective of this paper is therefore to evaluate how the existing watchkeeping regulations may be used as a baseline for developing functional requirements and performance criteria for uncrewed and potentially autonomous vessels. The focus is on the conventional lookout and navigation crew functions with sub tasks and duties. These functions are selected because they are assumed to be the most challenging to perform from a remote-control center or autonomously. Methodologically, this paper uses a literature review and expert judgements to assess if there is a potential gap between existing regulations and if there is a need for new regulations for uncrewed vessels. The work in this paper is partly related to the Sundbåten autonomous passenger ferry project in Kristiansund, Norway, involving both industry and academic partners.

Keywords: Uncrewed vessels, Remotely operated vessels, Autonomous vessels, Functional requirements and performance criteria.

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