Overall, the "ABS Advisory on Autonomous Functionality" aims to improve shipping's autonomous functions and its major regulatory developments.

Concerning the Concept of Operations (ConOps) document, it is defined as a document describing the characteristics of a proposed system from the viewpoint of an individual who will use that system, with the aim to define the planned operating modes (seagoing, port operations, piloting, anchor/mooring, distress/emergency, transiting, drilling or producing) and to lay out its operating philosophy.

The document includes the planning for the operation of remote control and autonomous vessels and units, which should take place early in the design phase with as much details as possible and involving all relevant stakeholders.

According to ABS, the content of the ConOps is to include but not limited to the following:

  1. Operational Envelope - Intended Area of Operations and Details/Limitations/Restrictions
  2. Defined Planned Voyage and Operation Phases with supportive Methods of Control
  3. Autonomous Approach - System Mapping by Method of Control/Operational Phase/Autonomy Level
  4. Operational environment and its characteristics
  5. Major system elements and the interconnection among those elements
  6. Interfaces to external systems or procedures
  7. Capabilities, functions/services and features
  8. Operational risk factors
  9. Performance characteristics
  10. Provisions for safety, security, integrity and continuity of operations in emergencies
  11. Logistics requirements
  12. Operational procedures

The document should have a holistic approach to the operations of the vessel or unit and its autonomous functions, including the operations of the systems onboard. With a task or multiple tasks being performed by the autonomous function(s), how are they being carried out? What is the inter-dependency and impact of these functions on the other systems onboard the vessel? Will the crew onboard understand the workings of these functions and do they know the remedial steps which they ought to take in case a failure occurs?

In addition, the document should also include the external interactions between the autonomous vessel or unit and functions with its surrounding maritime ecosystem.

The remote control and autonomous vessels and units highly depend on supporting systems and connectivity to Remote Control and Operations Centers providing shore-based supervision,
monitoring and some measure of remote control. Thu, the ConOps has to include and study in-detail the roles and responsibilities of the Remote Control and Operations Center.