An Australian Maritime Regulatory Sandbox

Rachel Horne, General Manager – Law, Regulation and Assurance, Trusted Autonomous Systems


Testing autonomous and remotely operated vessels can be challenging, particularly when it comes to identifying and navigating regulatory pathways. For designers and manufacturers who are not maritime-natives, or are working with iteratively designed vessels or groups of vessels, the process can be particularly confusing and lengthy.

To facilitate more efficient test and evaluation, and to support the gathering of data to support future regulatory development, Trusted Autonomous Systems worked with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and AMC Search to advocate for the establishment of an Australian Maritime Regulatory Sandbox.

This week AIMS announced their success in obtaining an approval enabling permit-free testing and evaluation of vessels up to 12m in length, travelling up to 20 knots within the test range.


ReefWorks Project Director Melanie Olsen said the status removed a time- consuming hurdle and uncertainty for developers and helped clear the path to development for Australia’s fledgling autonomous marine technology sector. 

“For the first time in Australia there is a place where individual developers can go without having to first secure a permit,” she said. 

“It eliminates a significant amount of red tape as well as the expensive possibility of not securing a permit in time for a planned trial. 

“It will also allow ReefWorks to share the lessons we learn with regulators to help reduce risk and drive legislative changes.”[i]



(C) AIMS Jo Hurford


While the Australian Maritime Safety Authority now has established processes in place for autonomous and remotely operated vessels, with many success stories in terms of quick turnarounds on applications, initiatives like the Australian Maritime Regulatory Sandbox remain critical to facilitate innovation in Australian industry. Increasing the efficiency of regulatory pathways by removing hurdles, in a way that does not jeopardise safe operations, benefits all stakeholders involved. This includes designers and manufacturers seeking to conduct rapid and iterative trials on one hand, and AMSA staff who must assess all unique applications on the other hand.

To learn more about Regulatory Sandboxes, and how they are used in other industries, please read the ‘Report Excerpt: Regulatory Sandboxes’ available below.

Report Excerpt: Regulatory Sandboxes


To find out more about the AIMS ReefWorks facility and see some autonomous and remotely operated vessels in action, take a look at this video from the Trusted Autonomous Systems Maritime Showcase 2022.

Trusted Autonomous Systems will continue to work to support this initiative and to bring other initiatives forward to support the Australian autonomous systems ecosystem.


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