Following an initiative by the Norwegian Maritime Authority, among others, the UN’s maritime organisation IMO is now putting the issue of autonomous ships on the agenda. This emerged after the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) considered a proposal from Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, UK and the United States, during the 98th session of MSC, held in 7-16 June.
According to plan, this issue will be discussed at the next meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 99), and then a plan will be drawn up for further consideration of the matter.
According to the Director General of Shipping and Navigation, Olav Akselsen, this shows that Norway is at the forefront in facilitating new technologies.
“Although it is too early to say anything about IMO’s conclusion, it is important that we are actively involved, which may also be significant for Norwegian innovation. The NMA’s role in this context is primarily related to the legislation, and it is therefore positive that the IMO is now adding this to the agenda,” he explained.
The proposal to put autonomous ships on the agenda faced no opposition, which came as a surprise to many, the Authority said. As Technical Director Lasse Karlsen added, there were surprisingly high levels of support on the initiative, even from countries expected to be negative, as they are major suppliers of seafarers.
Norway has already started up the first trials of autonomous ships, for instance through the approval of a test area in the Trondheimsfjord and through the establishment of the Norwegian Forum for Autonomous Ship (NFAS).