Replying to an official enquiry by the opposition Liberal Party (FDP), Germany’s coalition government (CDU/CSU and SDP) has stated that it believes that in future vessels can be operated autonomously without human intervention on board
“The federal government is convinced that technically advanced, fully automated vessels will in future be operated autonomously without human intervention on board," stated the reply from Berlin. The government believes that rapid developments in sensor technology, real-time measuring and safety systems make autonomous shipping a question of when and not if.
No details are available and no provisional timetable to begin testing autonomous or semi-autonomous vessels has been set. It is considered that the inland water network near Berlin, the upper Elbe and large port areas would be most suitable for autonomous navigation, although no specific water areas have been identified.
Some research and development projects are already under way. FernSams, for example, is looking at autonomous tug operations when a vessel is being moored or unmoored. The government is also conducting a wider study into real-time technology to improve maritime safety, traffic control, ship routing and ship data exchange. This links to IMO deliberations on how autonomous shipping can be regulated, spurred by initiatives in Norway and Denmark.