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Unmanned ships added to IMO agenda

Proposal’s to add discussion of autonomous vessel development to IMO’s next MSC meeting met no resistance Proposal’s to add discussion of autonomous vessel development to IMO’s next MSC meeting met no resistance Rolls-Royce

The IMO has agreed to add the issue of autonomous ships to its discussion agenda, following a proposal from a broad coalition of countries at MSC 98 (the 98th session of the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee) to include debate on the development on unmanned ships as part of the next Committee meeting.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}This proposal was put forward by maritime authorities from Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, the UK and the United States, and was accepted without facing any opposition, which came as a surprise to many, according to the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA).

“There was a surprisingly high level of support for starting the work on the regulation of autonomous ships, even from countries expected to be negative as they are major suppliers of seafarers,” said NMA technical director Lasse Karlsen.

According to the agreed proposals, the issue of autonomous vessel development will be discussed at the next meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 99), with a subsequent plan to be drawn up to guide further consideration of the future path of unmanned sea transport.

Norway’s enthusiasm for the topic is understandable given its existing projects trialling autonomous ships, with authorities in the country having already created a test area in the Trondheimsfjord and established a Norwegian Forum for Autonomous Ship (NFAS).

“This shows that Norway is at the forefront with regard to facilitating new technology,” said NMA director general of shipping and navigation, Olav Akselsen.

“Although it is too early to say anything about IMO's conclusion, it is important that we are actively involved, which may also be significant for Norwegian innovation. The NMA's role in this context is primarily related to the legislation, and it is therefore positive that the IMO is now adding this to the agenda.”{/mprestriction}

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