IMO will generate new rules covering autonomous ships after discovering gaps in existing regulations preventing further commercial developments
Its Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) met remotely over the past two weeks to consider amendments to enable development and operation of maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS).
During its 103rd session, between 5 and 14 May, MSC members considered regulatory requirements for MASS and assessed existing international legislation addressing MASS operations to enable trials and future commercial operation of autonomous ships in international waters. MSC 103 took account of recent investigations by a working group for safely operating MASS alongside surrounding manned shipping.
Committee members used results from this working group’s regulatory scoping exercise, which identified potential gaps between the current IMO instruments and requirements for MASS. MSC 103 agreed these gaps were wide enough to consider a separate MASS instrument from existing IMO regulations.
During the latest meetings, MSC also considered amending international shipping rules concerning safety matters from using ultra-low sulphur fuels.
It agreed to amendments to SOLAS regulation changing recommendations on testing life-saving appliances and fault isolation requirements for cargo ships.
MSC 103 approved amendments to the guidelines for the maintaining and inspecting fixed carbon dioxide fire-extinguishing systems and rules on water level detectors on multiple-hold cargo ships.
These regulatory developments come as shipping companies consider introducing autonomous ships, with at least two projects underway for local routes in Scandinavia.
Passenger shipping has already adopted unmanned vessels on short, frequent and local routes for vehicles and people.
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