One Sea: Toward an Autonomous Maritime Ecosystem

By Paivi Haikkola Jukka Merenluoto

The One Sea alliance is taking a lead in developing the technologies that will enable the autonomous ship.

Delivering an autonomous maritime transport system by 2025 will rely on “collaboration without borders” between major players from the international digital, communications and shipping sectors on regulation, testing and validation, and research and development.

Digital, Internet, Materials & Engineering Co-Creation Ltd. (DIMECC), the Finnish not-for-profit platform that provides administrative and other resources for the One Sea ecosystem, recently unveiled the Sea for Value program. S4V aims to develop concrete research-based recommendations on regulation, business, data usage, and sharing and standardization for autonomous ships.

The project offers fresh evidence that an ecosystem for autonomous maritime transport envisaged by One Sea can be achieved in time to meet the alliance’s ambitious target of 2025.

Despite its Finnish roots, One Sea is an international initiative: Current member partners represent countries including Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and the alliance continues to seek active participation worldwide.

Equally important is the unification of competitors and collaborators from various arenas. One Sea is a precompetitive open alliance, bringing together organizations from the maritime industry, information and communications technology, and the public sector to contribute toward a single goal: the establishment of an autonomous maritime system by 2025.

Current global One Sea members include:

  • ABB, international/Switzerland: digital technology specialist and founding member
  • Awake.AI, Finland: smart port and ship platform
  • Cargotec, international: cargo solutions provider and founding member
  • Ericsson, Sweden: telecommunications provider and founding member
  • Finnpilot, Finland: piloting company pioneering in digital solutions
  • Inmarsat, U.K.: global mobile satellite communications provider
  • Kongsberg Maritime, Norway: knowledge-based technology enterprise and founding member
  • Monohakobi Technology Institute (MTI), Japan: R&D subsidiary of NYK Group
  • NAPA, Finland/Japan: data analysis provider and subsidiary to Class NK
  • TietoEVRY, Finland/Norway: software company and founding member
  • Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) Finland: facilitator of safe marine traffic
  • Wärtsilä, international/Finland: marine power specialist and founding member

One Sea also partners with associations and government bodies, including: the Royal Institution of Naval Architects, Finnish Marine Industries, Finnish Port Association, Finnish Shipowner’s Association, Shipbrokers Finland and Business Finland.

Mapping Out the Future

When it was established in 2017, One Sea prepared a roadmap projecting the path from the alliance’s origin to the eventual realization of its goal: autonomous shipping by 2025.

One Sea pathway to autonomous ship ecosystem by 2025.

The initial focus is on remote monitoring making way for increasingly autonomous operations. Then, there is the need for testing: first in small, national trials and later on a larger, global scale. While validation is ongoing, regulations will need to be revised to accommodate autonomous vessels. There will be a progression of autonomy and digitalization in general and within the maritime sector specifically.

One Sea has identified several themes as pertinent to the creation of an autonomous marine ecosystem. These include: ethical issues stemming from the human factor and artificial intelligence; the evolution of cybersecurity; the launch of new projects and the associated intellectual property rights (One Sea does not accumulate IPR); education in the design and operation of automated ships; and national and global legislation.

A Step-by-Step Process

With its roadmap as reference, One Sea is engaged in the following activities:


The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is exploring the regulatory implications of maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS). Activities have also been launched at the level of Rhine and Danube conventions for inland waterway traffic.

One Sea seeks to cooperate with the IMO through individual flag states. It worked with the Finnish flag state to contribute two papers to Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) 99 in May 2018. One provided information regarding the test area in Finland, while the other considered the definitions for degrees and concepts of autonomy. The alliance has participated in MSC 99, 100 and 101. 

Testing and Validation

With the support of Finnish authorities, One Sea established a test area in Finnish waters in July 2017. Named “Jaakonmeri,” the site was the first of its kind to be open to companies from around the world wishing to trial MASS and related technologies. It is managed by DIMECC and offers the opportunity for testing in icy conditions during the winter.

Relative to the roadmap, testing is, in fact, ahead of schedule.

A timeline of recent developments in the One Sea ecosystem.

R&D Programs and Innovation

Although much of the technology required for maritime autonomy is already available, there remains room for further research and optimization. The One Sea ecosystem provides a platform for R&D projects. It also seeks to engage with start-ups and agile businesses to identify and encourage innovation and co-create technology, solutions and services.

R&D programs in which alliance members and other organizations join forces include S4V, launched by DIMECC in February 2020 to pave the way for remote pilotage and safer fairway navigation.

Product and Service Creation

Product and service creation is arguably the most important activity in efforts to develop an autonomous marine environment. Like testing, it is currently outperforming targets set out in the roadmap. Due to the precompetitive nature of the alliance, companies tend to work alone in creating products and services.

Disseminating the Message

One Sea is striving to communicate its vision for autonomous shipping, sharing information and developments and dispelling concerns. To this end, the alliance speaks at conferences and seminars, participates in discussions and publishes papers. This involves collaboration with authorities, class societies, research organizations and industry stakeholders.

The Road Ahead

With the majority of its eight-year roadmap still upcoming, One Sea is ahead of schedule in its plans to establish an autonomous maritime system by 2025. The international, multidisciplinary alliance has taken a proactive approach to regulation, testing, innovation and education. Although there is plenty left to be done, One Sea is working tirelessly to ensure that the industry will soon be steering itself toward a safer and more efficient future.

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Paivi Haikkola represents One Sea. Jukka Merenluoto represents DIMECC, Finland.

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