Autonomous Ships and the IMO

12 September 2022 by Dr James Jeffs
New autonomous ship trials and technologies are popping up around the globe and regulations will soon be needed to convert these trials into profitable and safe deployments. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is currently in the process of evaluating the compatibility of its body of rules and treaties with new emerging autonomous technologies. As part of the evaluation, four degrees of autonomy in shipping have been defined. A recent review process has concluded that many of the existing regulations will need updating to accommodate the different degrees of autonomous ships. The IMO is also developing a new code for autonomous ships, which it expects to come into force in 2028. This premium article covers the IMO's recent activity, autonomous ship definitions, regulatory road map, and strategic outlook in the area of MASS (maritime autonomous surface ships).
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