Pandemic stalls IMO talks on regulating autonomous ships

Professional Mariner|June/July 2020

Pandemic stalls IMO talks on regulating autonomous ships
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has suspended its Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meetings until further notice due to the COVID19 pandemic.
Capt. Marc Deglinnocenti

The meetings are at the heart of the IMO process that is taking place to regulate maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS).

Even though there’s a pause in the talks, some progress has been made regarding these advanced ships.

The IMO proudly states that the MSC has a strategic plan for both advancing MASS technologies and regulating the technologies it wants to promote. The regulation process is, of course, the more complicated of the two. The IMO is addressing the regulation process by continuing its ongoing scoping exercise, which is a multifaceted MASS study. We knew of the scoping study early on, but now we have a bit more information about what it entails.

The study currently covers multiple subject areas such as safety, security, liability, property damage compensation, international trade, costs, ports, marine environmental issues and personnel issues. The personnel research will include how pilots will be integrated into MASS, as well as the impact to various maritime-related jobs. The study also includes how personnel will respond to MASS incidents. That’s a great deal more information about the scoping study than we had a year ago. The study was due to be concluded by 2020, but that timeline is now in serious doubt.


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June/July 2020