San Francisco Partner David E. Russo was recently interviewed by PortNews Web Magazine of Livorno, Italy regarding the progress of smart ship technology development in the United States.

During the interview, Mr. Russo explained that "slow developments" have been occurring in the United States with respect to incorporating smart ship technology. He noted that this past summer, the U.S. Coast Guard took an important step by requesting input from the maritime industry on how smart ship use would impact the industry's infrastructure, workforce, cybersecurity, and regulatory environment. According to Mr. Russo, over the course of several months, the Coast Guard will digest the information that it has gathered and will begin creating a regulatory scheme. "I think this is a trend that will just continue as we go forward the next couple of years," he said.

Mr. Russo described that in light of the progress that the Coast Guard is making on this front, the industry may feel like they have support and thus may direct more resources into developing smart ship technology, including protections against cyberattacks. "I think the cybersecurity issue will be one of the larger issues in developing a real fleet of autonomous ships. Once we start relying on computers to run ships or many ship operations, they're at much greater risk than they were from pirates anywhere," he explained.

In commenting on how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the development of smart ship technology, Mr. Russo explained that the pandemic illustrates the benefits of having less crew, noting, "It does point to the fact that whenever you have lots of people in a small environment, you have various risks, and I think that's one reason that autonomous ships have started to captivate people's imagination."

Mr. Russo estimated that the trend toward smart ship technology will be gradual and will likely take between 10 and 20 years to fully develop.

Mr. Russo is a member of Lewis Brisbois' Marine & Energy Practice. His practice focuses on civil litigation and appellate practice in the areas of Admiralty, Cargo Claims, Product Liability, and maritime personal injury defense. He has tried dozens of cases, many to verdict. His practice also includes defense of general liability cases involving death and catastrophic injuries.

You can view the full PortNews interview here.