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Autonomous Ships Market Size, Share & COVID-19 Impact Analysis, By Autonomy (Partial Automation, Remotely Operated, and Fully Autonomous), By Solution (Hardware and Software), By Ship Type (Commercial (Bulk Carriers, Tankers, Dry Cargo, Containers, and Others) and Defense), By End User (Line Fit and Retrofit), and Regional Forecast, 2021-2028

Region : Global | Format: PDF | Report ID: FBI101797



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The global autonomous ships market size was USD 6.40 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow from USD 6.55 billion in 2021 to USD 12.07 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 9.13% in the 2021-2028 period. The global impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented and staggering, with these ships witnessing a negative demand shock across all regions amid the pandemic. Based on our analysis, the global market exhibited a huge decline of -3.94% in 2020 as compared to the average year-on-year growth during 2017-2019. The sudden rise in CAGR is attributable to this market’s demand and growth, returning to pre-pandemic levels once the pandemic is over.


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Autonomous ships are remotely controlled or highly automated ships. These ships include the latest technology, such as data analysis technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), and onshore monitoring bases connected by broadband communication. The advanced hardware and software automatically operate all the onboard tasks associated with ship operations. Automated systems provide important information such as equipment status monitoring, surroundings lookouts, engine control, cargo management/loading, ship maneuvering, docking and undocking, etc.

Technological advancements in sensors, electromechanical actuators, camera technology, and satellite technology will traverse the oceans without a human on board. The Comite Maritime International (CMI) and International Maritime Organization (IMO) are exploring how autonomous ships would fit into the current framework of international maritime law.

Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Naval Industry Affected Market Growth

The naval sector has faced unprecedented challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. Production halt, supply chain disruptions, and quarantine periods for crews and staff hamper this market growth.

  • According to the report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 2020, global maritime trade was reduced by 4.1% in 2020.

  • The UNCTAD Review of Maritime Transport 2020 report states that the COVID-19 pandemic has sent shockwaves leading to plummeting cargo volumes, shipping networks and ports, and foiling growth prospects.

  • Furthermore, issues, such as port closures, less demand for cargo, and growing disputes between owners and charters, hinder the autonomous ships market growth.


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Innovations in Maritime Navigation Software to Boost Market Development

In recent years, key market players started developing solutions to enhance navigational safety. The introduction of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality, and advanced navigation systems, boost market growth.

In April 2020, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) installed its 'Hyundai Intelligent Navigation Assistant System' (HiNAS) to a 250,000 dwt bulker. The system uses AI to automatically identify nearby vessels, capture nearby ships' speed and location, and show the data on an augmented reality (AR) display. HHI mentioned that the HiNAS technology is useful for autonomous operations to larger ships.


Growing Investments in Next Generation Ship Technology Projects to Drive Market Growth

The rising investment from various countries for advanced technology drives market growth. Autonomy helps in reducing maritime collisions, operating long hours without distraction, increasing fuel efficiency, and executing critical missions.

In October 2019, South Korea invested USD 130 million in an autonomous ship project. The project includes developing an intelligent system capable of navigation, collision and accident prevention, an integrated platform to control systems, decision making, and situational awareness. The introduction of advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and big data analytics drive market growth.

Development of Next-Generation Autonomous Ships Boosts the Market Growth

The introduction of advanced software and hardware solutions for the development of next-generation vessels drives the market's growth. In September 2020, IBM and ProMare launched the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS). The MAS uses IBM technologies such as automation, AI, cloud and edge technologies and runs solar energy.

Furthermore, Yara International developed the first fully electric cargo ship and is expected to sail it in Norway by 2021. Thus, the growing development of next-generation vessels drives market growth.


Threats Associated with Cyber Security Hampers the Market Growth

The maritime industry has faced continuous transformation in vessels due to growing digitization and automation. Autonomous vessel infrastructure includes a mixture of electromechanical systems and highly integrated software and hardware forming computer networks. The interlinking between censoring and networking over modern vessels and computers at ports, terminals, shipping companies, and shipyards hamper the security more vulnerable via cyber-attacks and piracy. Growing digitalization and modernization leads to cyber-attacks, thus affecting the overall market growth.


By Autonomy Analysis

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Fully Autonomous Segment to Witness Highest Growth during 2021-2028 due to Rise in Demand for Fully Autonomous Ships

Based on autonomy, the market is segmented into partial automation, remotely operated, and fully autonomous.

Among these, the remotely operated segment held the largest share in 2020. Remotely operated ships are operated from remote centers that provide the ability to operate ships with better vantage points and from safer grounds. In September 2020, SeaOwl, an offshore services operator, launched a new Remotely Operated Service at Sea (ROSS).

The fully autonomous segment will showcase the highest growth during the forecast period. The growth is attributed to the benefits such as faster turnaround, shorter port stay, lower operating costs, no accidents due to human error, and lower freight rates.

By Solution Analysis

Hardware Segment Held Highest Shares in 2020 Due to Growing Use of Automated Navigation Systems and Advanced Sensors

Based on the size, the market is divided into hardware and software.

The hardware segment dominated the market in 2020 and continues its domination during 2021-2028. The growth is attributed to the growing adoption of hardware components such as sensors, GPS trackers, automated navigation systems, propulsion & auxiliary systems, and others.

The software segment will witness the highest growth due to advanced software solutions for autonomous operations. In January 2020, Robosys Automation Limited launched the newest version of Voyager 100. It is an AI software that allows bridge watchkeepers to control ships and improve safety.

By Ship Type Analysis

Commercial Segment Will Witness Highest Growth Due to Rising Demand Next Generation Cargo Ships

By ship type, the market is classified into commercial and defense.

The commercial segment is divided into bulk carriers, tankers, dry cargo, containers, and others.

The commercial segment held the highest shares in 2020. The growth is attributed to the increasing tourism and international seaborne trades. According to the International Chamber of Shipping, the total value of the annual global shipping industry trade reached USD 14 trillion in 2019. Thus, this drives market growth. The defense segment is projected to show significant growth due to rising demand from naval forces for border patrol, transportation of military forces, and others.

By End User Analysis

Line fit Segment Dominated the Market in 2020 Owing to Growing Spending on Naval Defense

By end-user, the market is segmented into line fit and retrofit.

Among these, the line fit segment held the highest autonomous ships market share in 2020. The growth is due to increasing investments from naval defense forces and growing international maritime trade. The procurement of advanced ships due to growing tourism drives the segmental growth.

The retrofit segment will witness remarkable growth during the forecast period. Growing upgrades and modernization programs and changing regulatory energy and emission standards drive the market growth.


Asia Pacific Autonomous Ships Market Size, 2020 (USD Billion)

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The market is studied across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Rest of the World.

Asia Pacific dominated the market in 2020 and is valued at USD 2.15 billion. The growth is attributed to the rapid economic development and growing maritime trade across the region. According to the UNCTAD Review of Maritime Transport 2020, Asia contributed nearly 65% of global container port traffic and remained the leading position in container port cargo handling. Furthermore, in April 2020, ABB and Keppel Offshore & Marine successfully conducted a trial of South Asia’s first harbor tug in the Port of Singapore. Thus, driving the market growth across the Asia Pacific.

North America will showcase significant growth due to rising investments in developing advanced vessels for commercial and defense applications. Growing maritime trade in the U.S. and IBM Corporation, GE, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell International Inc., and others drive the market growth.

Europe is anticipated to show remarkable growth during 2021-2028. The growth is due to the increasing investments in developing advanced ships projects from various European countries, driving the market growth. In January 2020, the European research program, Horizon 2020, allocated USD 22 million for the autonomous ship project developed by the Norwegian maritime cluster. Furthermore, key players such as ABB, Fugro, Kongsberg Maritime, Rolls-Royce Plc., and others propel the market growth across the region.

The rest of the world will showcase moderate growth during 2021-2028. This growth is attributed to increasing expenditure on the naval sector from the Middle East countries. In 2019, Unique Group in the UAE developed a UnI-Cat vessel for unmanned surveys in shallow waters. The company designs and integrates autonomous sensor and communications technology in the vessel.


Key Players Focusing on Development Advanced Technologies to Develop Next-Generation Autonomous Vessels

Autonomous ship companies in the market are focusing on business expansion by developing next-generation vessels and systems. In February 2021, ABB developed Ability Genix Industrial Analytics and AI Suite for shipping companies to drive better decisions and improve efficiency.

In addition, in March 2020, Fugro entered into a partnership with SEA-KIT to develop advanced compact unmanned surface vessels (USVs), which can deploy autonomous underwater vehicles and remotely operated vehicles for marine asset inspections.


  • ABB (Switzerland)

  • ASELSAN A.Ş. (Turkey)

  • BAE Systems (U.K.)

  • Fugro (Netherlands)

  • GE (U.S.)

  • Honeywell International Inc. (U.S.)

  • Kongsberg Maritime (Norway)

  • L3Harris Technologies, Inc. (U.S.)

  • Northrop Grumman (U.S.)

  • Rolls-Royce plc (U.K.)

  • Siemens Energy (Germany)

  • Wärtsilä (Finland)


  • June 2021 – Austal USA signed a contract worth USD 44 million with the U.S. Navy to develop its Expeditionary Fast Transports as an autonomous prototype. The contract applied to EPF-13 ships that will be used for various specialized missions.

  • August 2021 – Sea Machines Robotics Ltd. signed a contract worth USD 3 million with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to deploy a full-scale, oceangoing replenishment platform. The company develops autonomous command-and-control and advanced perception systems for marine industries.


An Infographic Representation of Autonomous Ship Market

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The market report provides a detailed analysis of this market and focuses on key aspects such as top naval companies, ship types, solutions, and leading applications. Moreover, the report offers insights into market trends and highlights key industry developments. In addition to the major factors mentioned above, the market report encompasses several direct and indirect factors that have contributed to the market's growth over recent years.

Report Scope & Segmentation



Study Period


Base Year


Estimated Year


Forecast Period


Historical Period



Value (USD Billion)


Autonomy, Solution, Ship Type, End User, and Geography

By Autonomy

  • Partial Automation

  • Remotely Operated

  • Fully Autonomous

By Solution

  • Hardware

  • Software

By Ship Type

  • Commercial

    • Bulk Carriers

    • Tankers

    • Dry Cargo

    • Containers

    • Others

  • Defense

By End-User

  • Line Fit

  • Retrofit

By Geography


  • North America (By Autonomy, Solution, Ship Type, End-User, and Country)

    • U.S. (By Autonomy)

    • Canada (By Autonomy)

  • Europe (By Autonomy, Solution, Ship Type, End-User, and Country)

    • U.K. (By Autonomy)

    • Germany (By Autonomy)

    • France (By Autonomy)

    • Russia (By Autonomy)

    • Rest of Europe (By Autonomy)

  • Asia Pacific (By Autonomy, Solution, Ship Type, End-User, and Country)

    • Japan (By Autonomy)

    • China (By Autonomy)

    • India (By Autonomy)

    • South Korea (By Autonomy)

    • Rest of Asia Pacific (By Autonomy)

  • Rest of the World (By Autonomy, Solution, Ship Type, End-User, and Sub-Region)

    • Latin America (By Autonomy)

    • The Middle East & Africa (By Autonomy)

Frequently Asked Questions

Fortune Business Insights says that the global market size was USD 6.40 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach USD 12.07 billion by 2028.

The market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.13% during the forecast period (2021-2028).

The hardware in the solutions segment is expected to be the leading segment in this market during the forecast period.

KONGSBERG is the leading player in the global market.

Asia Pacific held the highest market share in 2020.

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