Autonomous Ships to Take the Spotlight at IMO Meeting

Image Courtesy: Rolls-Royce

On May 16, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) efforts on the regulation of autonomous ships will begin with the 99th session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 99).

The MSC will begin looking at how the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) may be introduced in IMO instruments.

It is anticipated that a working group will be established to develop a plan of work and terms of reference for an intersessional correspondence or working group, according to IMO.

The MSC recognized at its last session that IMO should take a proactive role on this issue, given the rapid technological developments relating to the operation of ships in various autonomous/automated modes. The scoping exercise is seen as a starting point and is expected to touch on an extensive range of issues, including the human element, safety, security, interactions with ports, pilotage, responses to incidents and protection of the marine environment.

Commenting on the upcoming MSC 99, the Danish Maritime Authority (DMA) said that the global industry needs international regulation to facilitate the use of autonomous ships.

“The first projects with autonomous ships have been launched and we have approved the first test sites in Denmark. In other words, development is rapid in this domain and it is crucial to bring the international regulation up to speed. That is why it is so important that the IMO will now begin to lay the groundwork for such regulation,” Andreas Nordseth, Director General of the DMA, explained.

In addition to autonomous ship regulation, MSC 99 will discuss maritime safety in the Arctic and the Antarctic as well as other issues.

The meeting will take place at IMO Headquarters in London from May 16 to 25.

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