The 100th session of IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 100) concluded on 7 December, approving the framework and methodology for the regulatory scoping exercise on Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS), following testing of the methodology by a correspondence group.
For each instrument related to maritime safety and security, and for each degree of autonomy, provisions will be identified which:
- apply to MASS and prevent MASS operations; or
- apply to MASS and do not prevent MASS operations and require no actions; or
- apply to MASS and do not prevent MASS operations but may need to be amended or clarified, and/or may contain gaps; or have no application to MASS operations.
The degrees of autonomy identified for the purpose of the scoping exercise are:
- Degree one: Ship with automated processes and decision support: Seafarers are on board to operate and control shipboard systems and functions. Some operations may be automated and at times be unsupervised but with seafarers on board ready to take control.
- Degree two: Remotely controlled ship with seafarers on board: The ship is controlled and operated from another location. Seafarers are available on board to take control and to operate the shipboard systems and functions.
- Degree three: Remotely controlled ship without seafarers on board: The ship is controlled and operated from another location. There are no seafarers on board.
- Degree four: Fully autonomous ship: The operating system of the ship is able to make decisions and determine actions by itself.
Once the first step is completed, a second step will be conducted to analyse and determine the most appropriate way of addressing MASS operations, taking into account, inter alia, human element, technology and operational factors. The analysis will identify the need for:
- Equivalences as provided for by the instruments or developing interpretations; and/or
- Amending existing instruments; and/or
- Developing new instruments; or
- None of the above as a result of the analysis.
The initial review of instruments under the purview of the MSC will be conducted during the first half of 2019 by a number of volunteering Member States, with the support of interested international organizations. An intersessional MSC working group is also expected to meet in September 2019 to move forward with the process with the aim of completing the regulatory scoping exercise in 2020.
The list of instruments to be covered in the MSC’s scoping exercise for MASS includes those covering:
- safety (SOLAS);
- collision regulations (COLREG);
- loading and stability (Load Lines);
- training of seafarers and fishers (STCW, STCW-F);
- search and rescue (SAR);
- tonnage measurement (Tonnage Convention);
- Safe Containers (CSC); and
- special trade passenger ship instruments (SPACE STP, STP).
In addition, the MSC noted provisional principles for the development of guidelines on MASS trials, discussed by a working group. The principles include ensuring that such guidelines should be generic and goal-based, and taking a precautionary approach to ensuring the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of MASS. Interested parties were invited to submit proposals to the next session of the Committee, taking into account these principles.