Maritime 4.0 and the role of future seafarers in autonomous shipping

Investigating the effect of Industry 4.0 on the shipping industry and the role of future seafarers in autonomous shipping

Degree type


Closing date

18 July 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

In recent years the advent of technology, especially in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), brings about the possibility of developing fully autonomous systems. Recently, with the introduction of commercially sensible solutions, design and operation of unmanned and autonomous cargo and passenger ships are gaining momentum. Soon this will persuade shipping companies to add autonomous ships to their fleet. Therefore, this research is timely as autonomous shipping is not a promise to be delivered in the future but a reality which has already commenced.

The utilisation of the autonomous and unmanned shipping technology will have many effects on seafaring and the role seafarers as operators should play. However, although these ships are referred to as unmanned, the human element will still be present as remote operators when ships with autonomous systems enter into service. The shore-based operations of such ships demand new skills and expertise that are yet unknown, thus requires an extensive investigation. Current literature emphasis on the uniqueness of requirement of training for operators who work in an automated space. Moreover, the current maritime training regulatory systems do not account for training needs of the future autonomous ship operators. Thus, there is a need for research to shed light on these essential skills.

Although the training gaps and possible expertise for autonomous ship operation have been recognised, it is yet unknown what exactly the international maritime education and training regime should do to ensure that the maritime workforce is ready to respond to the future demand. There is also a gap in addressing the role of the IMO, maritime administrations and maritime training institutions in that future. Hence, this research will answer the following questions:

  1. What would be the effect of Shipping 4.0 on the future of shipping?
  2. What is the role of human in the operation of autonomous ships and the type of skills and competencies required to perform the operations of unmanned and autonomous ships?
  3. What qualifications should future trainers possess and how maritime training institutions would provide those skills and competencies?
  4. What infrastructure and facilities in maritime training institutes is required to provide such a training?
  5. What are the regulatory gaps and statutory actions required to make sure the workforce will be ready to meet the demands of the emerging shipping industry?

This research will conduct an extensive investigation to identify the requirement of operation of autonomous ships in the near future and the skill and competency that the seafarers who will operate them needs to possess. The findings of this research will provide guidelines and a recommendary framework which can be used by the International and national maritime regulatory bodies to revise training needs towards mentoring seafarers and equipping them with the expertise required.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Reza Emad


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,854 per annum (2022 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • PhD must be undertaken on a full-time basis
  • Applicants must have been awarded a first-class Honours degree or hold equivalent qualifications or relevant and substantial research experience in an appropriate sector
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate strong research and analytical skills

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Applicants from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to apply but applicants with a maritime background who are familiar with qualitative research are preferred

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Reza Emad to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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