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The Futures of Maritime Autonomy, and it's Regulation

Authors: Rory Hopcraft*, Royal Holloway, University of London
Topics: Political Geography, Cyberinfrastructure
Keywords: Automation, Geopolitics, Regulatory Geographies
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The increase in autonomy and digitalisation within the maritime space has been driven by the industries capitalist mentality. However, due to the uncertainty surrounding the envisioned futures of these technological advancements, the creation of regulation faces many challenges. These challenges must be overcome by the international community to ensure the continued safety and security of ships and seafarers. This paper will present an overview of these geopolitical challenges, highlight the complexity of regulating the maritime space, and demonstrate how the international community will overcome these uncertainties.

Through an interdisciplinary lens this paper will firstly engage with key socio-geopolitical literatures to discuss how, through the use of epistemic communities, the international community utilises knowledge within regulatory discussions. By engaging with these literatures the paper will discuss how the uncertain futures of maritime autonomy has led to a transformation of the Cold-War collective security rhetoric into the contemporary collective responsibility mentality. By utilising examples of the Arctic environmental policy debates, and the UN Conference on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdictions, the paper will highlight the important role that community, and their overlap has on the creation of regulation within the maritime space.

The paper will conclude by discussing the vital role that the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will play as the primary regulator in the maritime space. The IMO will facilitate discussion around the potential futures of autonomy, and provide an insight into the political challenges of creating modern regulation within a landscape of archaic regulatory frameworks.

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