Guidance has been published to enable the shipping industry test and develop maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) safely and effectively
Classification society ClassNK has released its Guidelines for Automated/Autonomous Operation of ships - Design development, Installation and Operation of Automated Operation Systems/Remote Operation Systems.
This comes as the UK’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) opens its MARLab project for testing autonomous vessel technology to commercial operators and an IMO subcommittee* prepares to begin discussions on how regulations should be adapted for MASS testing, development and operations.
ClassNK’s latest guide builds on its existing guidance – Guidelines for Concept Design of Automated Operation/Autonomous Operation of Ships (Provisional Version) – published in 2018.
Guidance published this month also provides advice on installing MASS technology and procedures for maintenance and management during operations.
ClassNK has included the previously published provisional guidelines and newly compiled requirements in each stage of design and development, installation, and maintenance management during the operation of technology related to MASS.
In the UK, MCA’s MARLab platform went live at the end of December 2019 with companies invited to use facilities at the Port of Portland test site in southern England.
MCA has appointed Solis Marine as project managers for this site and around 20 different related datasets which include live automatic identification system information and data on vessel arrivals, expected arrivals and sailings and vessels in port.
Datasets on wind and speed direction, bathymetry and tidal data are also available, as is a package of navigation charts and related spatial data from the UK Hydrographic Office.
MCA smart shipping policy officer and MARLab work overseer Katrina Kemp thinks the UK needs a clear regulatory pathway for MASS. “As the regulatory authority, we are very keen to work with the industry to find a way of continuing the development of this vital and innovative sector without compromising ship safety,” said Dr Kemp. “We know this kind of work will help the maritime industry create fit-for-purpose autonomous vessels.”
MASS regulations will be discussed at IMO’s Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation, Communication and Search and Rescue, 15-24 January 2020