Autonomous ships

Overview

BIMCO's position on "autonomous ships" has been approved by the BIMCO Board of Directors.

Background

Technological developments have reached such a level that autonomous shipping is becoming a real prospect for international trade. This would have a major impact on the shipping industry. An autonomous ship can operate for extended periods with various degrees of reduced human input. Three dimensions characterise such a ship: the automated systems in operation, the level of remote control, and the level of manning. At IMO, these three dimensions have resulted in four degrees of autonomy.

The IMO is currently researching how the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of so-called Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) could be introduced into IMO instruments. A significant challenge may exist in adapting the regulatory framework to enable autonomous ships to trade globally. The introduction of autonomous ships could also have an impact on cargo liability regimes, such as the Hague and the Hague-Visby Rules. Furthermore, there are several challenges ranging from the human element to technical and commercial issues that need to be solved.

Cyber risk management will be increasingly important for automated ships. A cyber attack on a critical system in a highly automated ship may influence the safety of the ship, crew and cargo.

BIMCO’s position

  • BIMCO will take a leading position to facilitate use of autonomous ships in international trade.
  • BIMCO will contribute to the development of a common understanding of the risks and opportunities of autonomous ships.
  • BIMCO supports the initiatives by the IMO and CMI (Comité Maritime International) to assess the need for changes to international conventions and national laws for autonomous ships to operate worldwide.
  • BIMCO recognises the importance of the human element, focus on new competences for seafarers, and the need for human relations initiatives to overcome problems such as potential loneliness following the reduction of personnel onboard.
  • BIMCO supports international interim guidelines for MASS trials to ensure operational reliability, safety and protection of the environment.

 

Rasmus Nord Jorgensen
in Copenhagen, DK
 

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