This paper offers an analytical discussion on the terminology and timeframes related to the future of shipping. The discussion is based on issues that have surfaced within the Swedish research project Autonomy and responsibility. The paper argues that the concept ‘autonomous ships’ has become an indicator of that seafarers soon will become obsolete – which may have negative consequences for the supply of maritime competence in coming years - and that the proper definition of the term ‘autonomous’ describes something that will never apply to a ship. Ships can be given the possibility, but hardly the full right or condition of self-government. It is argued that ‘smart ships’, or perhaps ‘intelligent ships’, are more appropriate, since these terms describe the current and future state of technology without predicting how humans will prefer to use it. The estimated timeframes for implementation of unmanned ships suggest no threat to the seafaring occupation for coming generation. The content of the occupation will of course change due to the phase of implementation of degree of digitalization, but there will always be a need for maritime knowledge and understanding.