IMO Safety Committee Eyes Autonomous Vessels

"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," IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said.

The International Maritime Organization has begun discussing how to address maritime autonomous surface ships. IMO's Maritime Safety Committee, meeting in at the organization's London headquarters May 16-25, is debating how to proceed with a regulatory scoping exercise that is expected include the human element, safety, security, interactions with ports, piloting, responses to incidents, and protection of the marine environment, for different levels of autonomy.

Speaking at the opening of this 99th session of the MSC, 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."

Lim also announced the formation of an inter-divisional maritime autonomous surface ships task force within the IMO Secretariat to support the work.

Also on the committee's agenda are consideration of 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' routing 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 Jan. 1, 2017.

The committee will be updated on reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships, and amendments to the SOLAS convention are set to be adopted, as are amendments to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.

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