IMO begins scoping exercise on autonomous vessels
Discussions on how to address maritime autonomous surface ships have begun at IMO. IMO says the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) is debating how to proceed with a regulatory scoping exercise, which is expected to touch on an extensive range of issues, including the human element, safety, security, interactions with ports, pilotage, responses to incidents and protection of the marine environment, for different levels of autonomy. Speaking at the opening of the 99th session of the MSC (16-25 May), IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, “It is important that we remain flexible to accommodate new technologies, and so improve the efficiency of shipping - while at the same time keeping in mind the role of the human element and the need to maintain safe navigation, further reducing the number of marine casualties and incidents.” Mr. Lim also announced the formation of an inter-divisional maritime autonomous surface ships taskforce, within the IMO Secretariat, to support the work on this important matter.
Other matters on the busy MSC agenda include considering how the Polar Code provisions might be applied in the future to non-SOLAS ships, including cargo ships of less than 500 gross tonnage, fishing vessels and pleasure yachts. New and amended ships' routeing measures set to be adopted include those in the Bering Sea and Bering Strait, aimed at reducing the risks of incidents. They will be the first measures to be adopted in IMO for the Arctic region since the Polar Code entered into force on 1 January 2017.
Matters related to the goal-based ship construction standards for bulkers and oil tankers are also on the agenda. The outcomes of Sub-Committees will be considered, including various guidelines set for approval. The MSC will be updated on the reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships. Amendments to the SOLAS convention are set to be adopted, alongside the latest set of amendments to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. The MSC is being chaired by Mr. Brad Groves (Australia).