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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

SMMI represented at international maritime law conference

Published: 1 June 2016
New York

A University of Southampton researcher attended the 42nd International Conference of the Comité Maritime International, which took place in New York earlier this month.

Hannah Stones, a PhD student based at the University’s Southampton Marine & Maritime Institute (SMMI), attended the four-day event to engage with the international community on issues pertinent to her research project on autonomy and liability for unmanned ships.

“Importantly in relation to my PhD topic there was a session on vessel nomenclature, and half a day of sessions on unmanned shipping,” says Hannah. “I was particularly interested to hear talks on the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative, a project led by Rolls-Royce to produce the specification and preliminary designs for the next generation of advanced ship solutions.”

The Comité Maritime International is a non-governmental, not-for-profit international organisation concerned with the unification of maritime law. This year’s conference, which was opened by the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation, was hosted for the first time by the Maritime Law Association of the United States. The sessions were wide-ranging, tackling the major maritime challenges of today and tomorrow, such as the engineering and legal challenges posed by the raising of the Costa Concordia.

For her own PhD project, Hannah is investigating how existing international regulations would apply to ships that are engineered to operate under some degree of autonomy. By bringing together law and engineering disciplines, she will define the legal liability of stakeholders in the event of an accident involving an autonomous/semi-autonomous vessel.

“The delegates I spoke to were all very interested in my PhD, especially after the sessions on unmanned shipping – and considered it to be one of the most important issues facing maritime law,” says Hannah.

Hannah started her PhD in October 2015 and is one of the six Leverhulme Trust Doctoral scholars with the SMMI. This cohort will be joined by a new intake of Leverhulme-funded students in October 2016.


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