AAWA – Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative

In February 2015, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes approved a joint industry-academia research project on autonomous ships. The project, called Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA), seeks to analyze challenges in different scientific fields related to autonomous shipping operations. It develops both autonomous and remote operation for ship navigation, machinery and all onboard operating systems. The project was kicked off in March 2015 and continues until June 2017.

In AAWA, the University of Turku has a diverse scope of research. There are four participating units which have research activities in technological, economical and legal areas of autonomous shipping development. The project is led by Rolls-Royce, and the other industry partners are DNV GL, NAPA, Deltamarin, and Inmarsat. The other research partners include Aalto University, Tampere University of Technology, Åbo Akademi University, and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The total budget of the project is 6.5 MEUR.

Faculty of Law in AAWA Initiative

Regulation is said to be among the largest challenges for autonomous shipping operations to materialize. These issues have not, however, been studied in detail yet. The Faculty of Law is involved in the legal assessment of this matter with the Department of Law of the Åbo Akademi University.

In shipping, private maritime law and insurance determines who is liable for damage caused by vessels. If autonomous vessels are introduced, the status quo is likely to change. In autonomous vessels, accidents will be increasingly caused by technical failures as the operator errors are eliminated. This disrupts the prior liability rule landscape, in particular when product liability is consider. In AAWA, the Faculty of Law focuses on the eventual liability vessel manufacturers may have for defective autonomous vessels. Also the key insurance issues on this matter will be taken into account.