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Focus on technology issues at IMO’s MSC98 Featured

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has released a roundup of the developments coming out of the recent 98th session of its Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), showing a strong focus on technology-related areas such as autonomous ships and cyber security.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}As had been previously announced by various supporting delegations, IMO has agreed at MSC 98 that a scoping exercise would be initiated to determine how the operation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) may be introduced in IMO instruments. That scoping exercise will address different levels of automation, including semi-autonomous and unmanned ships and will likely also include discussion of a definition of an ‘autonomous ship’.

Also to be examined will be a range of human element factors within different levels of autonomy for both shipboard and shore-based personnel, as well as the safety and operational aspects of autonomous remotely controlled or unmanned ships.

The technical, communications, software and engineering systems required to make autonomous shipping a reality will additionally form a significant part of the scoping exercise, IMO said.

The MSC also agreed that proper consideration should be given to the legal implications of the development of these systems, including where the responsibility would lie in case of an accident involving an autonomous ship, its consequences to the cargo, and also the implications for the shore side.

Aside from unmanned vessels, MSC 98 also considered the issue of maritime cyber security, and adopted a resolution on maritime cyber risk management in safety management systems.

The resolution makes reference to the International Safety Management (ISM) Code requirement for all identified risks to ships, personnel and the environment to be assessed, and for appropriate safeguards to be established. Administrations are encouraged to ensure that cyber risks are appropriately addressed in safety management systems no later than the first annual verification of the company’s Document of Compliance after 1 January 2021.

The MSC also approved earlier IMO guidelines on maritime cyber risk management, based on the interim guidelines (MSC.1/Circ.1526), following their recent approval by the Facilitation Committee.

These include high-level recommendations for maritime cyber risk management, referring to a measure of the extent to which a technology asset is threatened by a potential circumstance or event. The guidelines include background information, functional elements and best practices for effective cyber risk management.

Other areas of interest include MSC’s adoption of a number of new and revised performance standards and guidelines related to its e-navigation strategy, including guidelines for shipborne position, navigation and timing (PNT) data processing, as well as changes to the criteria for ship reporting systems to encourage the use of automated electronic means of ship reporting.

Finally, MSC 98 also granted approval for the modernisation plan of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), prepared by the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR). The plan envisages proposing amendments to SOLAS and related instruments for approval in 2021 and their adoption in 2022, with entry into force in 2024.{/mprestriction}

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