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ABS to focus on Autonomous Vessel Developments

March 6, 2022 Maritime Safety News

ABS has published a new whitepaper on Autonomous Vessels to support the industry’s increasing adoption of autonomous capabilities with a focus on safe implementation, which sets out 10 goals to create a framework for the design and operation of autonomous vessels and addresses key issues in implementation.

The whitepaper also includes an update on the outcome of the IMO’s Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) Regulatory Scoping Exercise, an important step on the road toward the development of requirements governing autonomous operations.

“To allow operations of fully autonomous vessels, the maritime industry requires regulations for their design. While this is an ongoing endeavor at the IMO, ABS is well placed to propose our own framework to support both safe innovation and adoption of autonomous technologies,” said Patrick Ryan, ABS Senior Vice President, Global Engineering and Technology.

Much progress has been made in the development of maritime autonomous technology in the last three years.  However, the technological and regulatory challenges vary depending on vessel type and size. As such, ABS notes and proposes a goal-based framework constructed from the ground-up for application to fully autonomous vessels.

The intent of the requirements contained in key regulations applicable to ship-design have been examined, namely the:

  • International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS, 1974, as amended), and
  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).

Therefore, ABS has identified the following high-level safety goals.

  1. Maintain propulsion
  2. Maintain safety of vessel
  3. Protect against flooding
  4. Maintain safety of navigation
  5. Communicate distress
  6. Meet environmental concerns
  7. Provide continuous monitoring and situational awareness
  8. Maintain command and decision system
  9. Maintain safety of cargo
  10. Maintain communication with remote operations center

”As the industry endeavors to develop regulations and requirements for autonomous vessel design and operations, this paper has proposed a goal-based framework based on the intent of the requirements contained in current conventional regulations. This leverages on the wealth of experience which formed the basis of these regulations.”