IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee addresses autonomous vessel...
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IMO's Maritime Safety Committee addresses autonomous vessel operations

The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) will determine how the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) may be introduced in International Maritime Organization (IMO) instruments.

05 September 2017 - 23:32

The MSC recognised that IMO should take a proactive and leading role in the scoping exercise

The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) will determine how the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) may be introduced in International Maritime Organization (IMO) instruments.

A scoping exercise to look at the human element, safety, security, interactions with ports, pilotage, responses to incidents and protection of the marine environment will take place, following an MSC committee meeting this month.

The MSC recognised that IMO should take a proactive and leading role and said the scoping exercise could include identifying: IMO regulations which, as currently drafted, preclude autonomous/unmanned operations; IMO regulations that would have no application to autonomous/unmanned operations; and IMO regulations which do not preclude unmanned operations but may need to be amended.

It was agreed the scoping exercise should address different levels of automation, including semi-autonomous and unmanned ships and could include discussion of what is meant by an ‘autonomous ship’.

Delegations suggested the exercise should include scoping of the full range of human element factors within different levels of autonomy for both shipboard and shore-based personnel; the reliability, robustness, resiliency and redundancy of the underlying technical, communications, software and engineering systems; and consideration of conducting a formal safety assessment or gap analysis on the safety, technical, human element and operational aspects of autonomous remotely controlled or unmanned ships.

The MSC also agreed that proper consideration should be given to legal aspects including responsibility in case of an accident.

It is anticipated that the work will take place over four MSC sessions, through to mid-2020.

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