A joint working group, established to address common high-priority safety, legal and facilitation issues regarding MASS, held its second session (17-21 April 2023) at IMO Headquarters. A seminar to discuss legal issues concerning MASS preceded the session.
The Joint MSC-LEG-FAL Working Group on Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS-JWG) was established following a regulatory scoping exercise designed to assess how existing IMO instruments might apply to MASS, and to identify any regulatory gaps. The scoping exercise was conducted by the Maritime Safety committee (MSC), Legal Committee (LEG) and Facilitation Committee (FAL).
The Joint Working Group agreed the following:
- There should be a human master responsible for a MASS, regardless of mode of operation or degree or level of autonomy.
- The master may not need to be on board, depending on the technology used on the MASS and the human presence on board, if any.
- Regardless of mode of operation or degree or level of autonomy, the master of a MASS should have the means to intervene when necessary.
- A master may be responsible for multiple MASS at the same time, under certain conditions. The Committee(s) were invited to further consider in detail what those conditions are.
- That several masters may be responsible for a MASS on a single voyage, under certain conditions. The Committee(s) were invited to further consider what those conditions are.
- That it was premature to discuss the roles of the crew of MASS because the definition of the role of the master may affect their roles and responsibilities. This will be discussed at future sessions of the Group.
- The definition of a Remote Operations Centre (ROC): “A location remote from the MASS that can operate some or all aspects of the functions of the MASS.”
- That the possibility of one or more ROC being responsible for a MASS on a single voyage, under certain conditions, should not be excluded – which needs to be further considered by the appropriate Committee(s).
- That only a single ROC must be responsible for a MASS at any one time.
- That a person (a master) at a ROC may be responsible for multiple MASS at the same time, under certain conditions. These conditions require further consideration.
- That the requirements for a ROC should be further discussed by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) when developing the MASS Code.
- The definition of a remote operator: “A qualified person who is employed or engaged to operate some or all aspects of the functions of a MASS from a remote operations centre.”
- That requirements relating to a remote operator will be discussed further by MSC when developing the MASS Code.
- In addition, an updated Work Plan was agreed, for approval by the three Committees.
In alignment with the draft updated Work Plan, the Group also reviewed and revised its terms of reference based on the outcome of the regulatory scoping exercises conducted by the three Committees, and on discussions during MASS-JWG 2, for consideration and approval by the three Committees.
The third session of the Joint MSC-LEG-FAL Working Group on MASS will be held 11-15 September 2023, with a Seminar on implications, challenges and opportunities of MASS operations for ports and public authorities on the first day, prior to the meeting.
Further on employing digitalization for shipping, the IMO Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue Sub-Committee (NCSR) 10, will take place 10 to 19 May 2023 where all matters related to navigation and communication, search and rescue and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System will be discussed.
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