IMO completes regulatory scoping exercise on autonomous vessels – Digital Ship
The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has completed a regulatory scoping exercise to analyze relevant ship safety treaties, to assess how Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) could be regulated.
Completing the scoping exercise is a very important first step, paving the way for focused discussions to ensure that regulations keep pace with technological developments.
The scoping exercise was launched in 2017 to determine how safe, secure and environmentally sound MASS operations could be addressed in IMO instruments.
The exercise consisted of evaluating a substantial number of IMO treaty instruments falling within the mandate of the MSC and identifying the provisions that applied to MASSs and prevented MASS operations; or applied to MASS and does not prevent MASS operations and does not require any action; or applied to MASS and do not prevent MASS operations but may need to be modified or clarified, and / or may contain gaps; or have no application to MASS operations.
Different degrees of autonomy have been taken into account: crewed vessel with automated processes and decision support (degree one); remotely controlled vessel with seafarers on board (degree two); remotely controlled vessel without seafarers on board (degree three); and fully autonomous vessel (degree four).
Safety treaties assessed include the SOLAS Convention and various codes made mandatory under SOLAS (Casualty Investigation, Enhanced Survey Program (ESP), Fire Safety Systems (FSS), Fire Test Procedures (FTP), Bulk Chemical (IBC), Gas Carrier (IGC)), Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC), Dangerous Goods (IMDG), Transport of Used Nuclear Fuel (INF), Intact Stability, International Security Management (ISM), Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS ), cereals, polar, recognized organizations (RO)); collision regulations (COLREG); Convention on Load Lines and Protocol of 1988; Safe Containers Convention (CSC); STCW Convention and Code, as well as STCW-F Convention; search and rescue (SAR Convention 1979); tonnage measurement (Tonnage 1969) and the Code of Good Practice for Cargo Securement and Securement (CSS Code) and the Code for the Implementation of IMO Instruments (Code III).
For each provision, the exercise made it possible to determine whether the MASS could potentially be regulated by: equivalences as provided for by the instruments or the development of interpretations; and / or modify existing instruments; and / or develop a new instrument; or none of the above as a result of the analysis.
The result highlights a number of high priority issues, cutting across multiple instruments, which should be addressed at the policy level to determine future work.
These involve the development of MASS terminology and definitions, including an internationally accepted definition of MASS and clarification of the meaning of the term “captain”, “crew” or “responsible person”, particularly at degrees three ( remotely operated vessel) and four (fully autonomous vessel).
Other key issues include the handling of the functional and operational requirements of the remote control station / center and the possible designation of a remote operator as a seafarer.