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IMO:  Autonomous Vessel Regulation, On The Way

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The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has completed a regulatory scoping exercise to assess future regulation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS).

At its 103rd session, IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) analysed existing ship safety treaties with a view to regulation of MASS and keeping regulations fit for advancing technologies.

The scoping exercise completed at MSC 103, started in 2017, considered multiple levels of automation, and looked at whether IMO provisions applied to MASS operations, contained gaps, outright prevented MASS operations or needed amendments or clarifications.



“The outcome highlights a number of high-priority issues, cutting across several instruments, that would need to be addressed at a policy level to determine future work.

“Further common potential gaps and themes identified across several safety treaties related to provisions containing manual operations and alarms on the bridge; provisions related to actions by personnel (such as firefighting, cargoes stowage and securing and maintenance); watchkeeping; implications for search and rescue; and information required to be on board for safe operation,” said IMO.

MSC noted a preference for holistic approach to incorporating MASS in IMO regulations through development of a goal-based MASS instrument, and invited member states to submit proposals to a future MSC session on how best to move forward.

To give an idea of the size of the exercise, the safety treaties assessed include: the SOLAS Convention and various codes made mandatory under SOLAS (Casualty Investigation, Enhanced Survey Programme (ESP), Fire Safety Systems (FSS), Fire Test Procedures (FTP), Bulk Chemical (IBC), Gas Carrier (IGC), Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC), Dangerous Goods (IMDG), Carriage of Irradiated Nuclear Fuel (INF), Intact Stability, International Safety Management (ISM), Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS), Grain, Polar, Recognized Organizations (RO)); collision regulations (COLREG); Load Lines Convention and 1988 Protocol; Convention on Safe Containers (CSC); STCW Convention and Code, as well as STCW-F Convention; search and rescue (1979 SAR Convention); tonnage measurement (Tonnage 1969) and the Code of Safe Practice for Cargo Stowage and Securing (CSS Code) and  IMO Instruments Implementation Code (III Code).

IMO’s Legal and Facilitation Committees are also in the process of conducting regulatory scoping exercises on conventions under their purview, said IMO.

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