The idea of developing an autonomous merchant ship
(carrying passengers or goods by the sea with a
limited human intervention) has been pursued by
shipping companies and other industry actors for the
past few years. As of April 2020, there are some
prototypes being tested, or in preparation (Felski &
Zwolak, 2020). However, it remains unknown how,
or when such ships will become fully operational
(Kooij et al., 2018) and whether their operations will
be feasible (Wróbel et al., 2017). Nonetheless, it can be
safely assumed that they will at some point be
introduced to the maritime industry, and will
eventually become a significant mode of transporting
goods and passengers (Bitar, 2017).
The sustainability of such vessels comes with the
need of redefining the role of seafarers and other
maritime personnel (Cicek et al., 2019; Lokuketagoda
et al., 2018). The issue of preparing the maritime
workforce for the upcoming shift is already being
discussed by numerous authors (Emad et al., 2020;
Fan et al., 2020; Lutzhoft et al., 2019; Sharma et al.,
2019). However, to our best knowledge, cadets’
attitudes or points of view have not been investigated
to date. Meanwhile, future seafarers are continuously
being educated and trained in many Maritime
Education and Training (MET) institutions around
the world. Moreover, introducing autonomous ships
and technological progress in the marine industry are
indicated as some of the reasons for the continuous
improvement of seafarers' skills (Yuen et al., 2018).
Thus, in order to secure the sustainability of the
maritime training process, cadets’ perspectives must
be scrutinized and addressed.
Some research concerning the mariners’ attitude
towards Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships
(MASS), has been conducted in recent years (Nautilus
Federation, 2018; World Maritime University, 2019).
However, those studies were focused on the opinion
Awareness and Attitude of Maritime Students Towards
the Introduction of Autonomous Merchant Ships
Preliminary Results
J. Nasur & K. Bogusławski
Gdynia Maritime University, Gdynia, Poland
ABSTRACT: Autonomous merchant shipping has become a topic of discussions and studies as the available
technology enables it to become a possible alternative to conventional ships manned with seafarers. The present
study reviews the results of a survey conducted worldwide amongst the students of maritime universities. The
students were asked about their understanding of autonomous merchant ships and an attitude towards them.
The study finds that the vast majority of interviewees claims to have an average or below average knowledge of
the topic, and perceive automation as a factor increasing safety at sea, while threatening seafaring jobs. The
results suggest that the topic of autonomous shipping should be more touched upon in curriculums of maritime
universities, as the students appear to have a limited understanding of what can potentially become a future of
their prospective occupation.
the International Journal
on Marine Navigation
and Safety of Sea Transportation
Volume 14
Number 4
December 2020
DOI: 10.12716/1001.14.04.10
of experienced seafarers. It is also important to
investigate what attitude do the students of maritime-
related topics have. They intend to advance their
maritime careers and will inevitably be affected by
any disruptive changes to it. Therefore, the aim of this
study is to bridge this gap and identify the awareness
and attitude of maritime students towards
introducing the autonomous merchant ships. The
findings of this study can be found relevant and
interesting by scholars and lecturers at METs,
regarding the topic coverage in curricula.
Additionally, maritime administration, as well as
seafarers’ unions and other public institutions may be
interested in seeing the perceived job insecurity
caused by automation.
The paper is organized as follows. In Section 2,
methods utilized in the study are presented and
described. Section 3 introduces results of the survey
along with their analysis. In Section 4, the main
findings are discussed, while Section 5 concludes the
In the study, conducted at the turn of February and
March 2020, we asked students of maritime-related
studies to answer a total of 18 questions, in order to
check their views concerning MASS. The form was
sent to the teachers and officials of maritime
universities along with a request to share it amongst
their students.
The survey was conducted through an online
survey platform. Before starting the survey, the
questionnaire was sent to three maritime students in
order to validate the survey form. Since we received
positive feedback, no further changes were made to
the questionnaire. The answers of the testers are thus
included in the results.
In total, we received 338 individual responses.
Among these, we rejected eight, because they did not
meet the requirements of participation.
The questions 1-6 concerned the demographic
background of the respondents. The question 7
concerned their opinion about their overall
familiarity with the topic of MASS. The survey would
terminate upon responding: The topic is unknown to
me. Consequently, the questions 8-18 concerned
respondents’ attitude and awareness of the topic, as
well as its exploration during maritime studies.
3.1 Demographic data
Out of 330 respondents, 73.6% were males, 25.2%
were females, remaining 1.2% were non-binary or
preferred not to state their gender. A vast majority
(91.2%) was less than twenty-two years old.
Table 1 depicts demographic breakdown of the
surveyed students by the countries of origin,
affiliated universities and majors of studies.
The highest number of respondents affiliated with
Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) in
Philippines (39.7%), however, when combining the
answers, the majority of respondents (60.3%) studied
in European METs. Most of the respondents (83.3%)
have been studying maritime-oriented majors for no
more than three years.
Table 1. Demographic breakdown of the respondents
Country of origin Number of respondents
Philippines 131
Russia 77
Poland 54
Belgium 24
Romania 18
France 6
Other 19
Affiliated university Number of respondents
Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific 131
Admiral Makarov State University of 84
Maritime and Inland Shipping
Gdynia Maritime University 46
Antwerp Maritime Academy 31
Constanta Maritime University 19
Maritime University of Szczecin 10
World Maritime University 7
Estonian Maritime Academy 1
Studies major Number of respondents
Navigation 161
Transport and logistics 90
Marine engineering 72
Administration 4
Electrical engineering 1
IT 1
3.2 Results of the survey
When asked about their familiarity with the topic of
MASS, 88% of the respondents rated their knowledge
as no higher than average (Fig.1.). The respondents
were then asked how they feel about increasing ship
automation (Fig.2.) and where did they know the
term autonomous merchant ship from, in the form of
a multiple choice question (Fig.3.). The most
selected sources were: maritime-oriented websites
(54%), lectures (47%) and discussions with other
students (39%). The vast majority of the students
(70%) rated the coverage of the MASS topic within
their major curricula as average or below average