UK Unveils Industry Code of Practice for Autonomous Vessels

UK’s maritime sector body Maritime UK has launched a new Industry Code of Practice for the design, construction and operation of autonomous maritime systems.

Seeking to provide practical guidance for autonomous and semi-autonomous vessels less than 24 metres long, the Industry Code of Practice will provide guidelines while the more detailed regulatory framework for autonomous systems is developed.

It is designed to set initial standards and best practice for all those involved with the development and operation of autonomous systems. Covering design, manufacturing, safety, communication and navigation through to training and skills, the code will help shape new regulation as it develops.

The code will be updated as required when guidance from the IMO Regulatory Scoping Exercise is published, and as the MCA develops policies to meet the needs of forthcoming technological, commercial and regulatory demands.

“These are exciting times and it is very important that every step is taken to ensure safety for everyone at sea, whether in manned or unmanned vessels,” James Fanshawe, the UK Maritime Autonomous Systems Working Group’s Chairman, said.

The code of practice was launched during the UK International Marine Autonomous Systems Regulatory Conference 2017, being held at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton on November 16 and 17.

Earlier this week, the UK Ship Register signed its first-ever unmanned vessel to the flag, the ASV Global’s C-Worker 7. The move represents the register’s adaptation “to the changes of the maritime industry.”

The vessel will be used for work such as subsea positioning, surveying and environmental monitoring. It can be used under direct control, semi-manned or completely unmanned.

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