IMO Approves Autonomous Ship Trial Guidelines

Kitack Lim, Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)Illustration. Source: Flickr - under the CC BY 2.0 license; Image Courtesy: IMO

The IMO’s 101st Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meeting has approved an initial set of guidelines for the conduct of autonomous ship trials.

The guidelines say that trials should be conducted in a manner that provides at least the same degree of safety, security and protection of the environment as provided by the relevant instruments.

Risks associated with the trials should be appropriately identified and measures to reduce the risks, to as low as reasonably practicable and acceptable, should be put in place, IMO said.

The guidelines further stipulate that onboard or remote operators of MASS should be appropriately qualified for operating MASS subject to the trial. Any personnel involved in MASS trials, whether remote or onboard, should be appropriately qualified and experienced to safely conduct MASS trials. Appropriate steps should be taken to ensure sufficient cyber risk management of the systems and infrastructure used when conducting MASS trials.

The interim guidelines for what the International Maritime Organization terms as Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) trials were one of the topics of the MSC meeting that took place from June 5 to 14.

The MSC said it made progress with the scoping exercise to look at how the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of MASS may be introduced in IMO instruments.

A working group met during the session and terms of reference were agreed for an intersessional working group to be held in September 2019 to continue the work.

Other issues addressed at the meeting included the safety of ships in polar waters, piracy and armed robbery against ships, and E-navigation guidance.

The committee approved guidance for navigation and communication equipment intended for use on ships operating in polar waters. The guidance includes recommendations on temperature and mechanical shock testing, and on how to address ice accretion and battery performance in cold temperatures. Guidelines on life-saving appliances and arrangements for ships operating in polar waters, were also approved.

A number of circulars related to the development of e-navigation were also approved. E-navigation is defined as “the harmonized collection, integration, exchange, presentation and analysis of marine information on board and ashore by electronic means to enhance berth to berth navigation and related services for safety and security at sea and protection of the marine environment”.

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