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Unmanned Autonomous Regulatory Concern

In the era of new technology, authorities and regulatory bodies are concerned with the development and implementation of regulations and reporting practices that would maximize the safety of autonomous systems. Safety4Sea (2020), one of the leading sources of maritime operations news, reports a general regulatory concern related to the future uses of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS). According to the source, even though there are research projects that demonstrate the successful applications of MASS technology, the Maritime Safety Committee of the International Maritime Organization is only starting to address the applications of IMO regulations to MASS (Safety4Sea, 2020). Experts highlight that “the technology to enable automated navigation is widely available,” but the common understanding of autonomous shopping has not been achieved yet (Safety4Sea, 2020, para. 4).

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Regarding the situation’s effects on the maritime industry, it is possible that the absence of clear definitions and regulatory frameworks will hamper the implementation of future MASS systems in commerce and increase the gap between technology and law. As of now, some limiting factors affecting further testing and employment of MASS include the absence of specific safety standards and guidelines for MASS trials in ports (Safety4Sea, 2020). Another potential technical challenge affecting the employment of MASS is the current state of research regarding the uses of simulation methods in the testing of autonomous systems. For instance, according to ClassNK, such systems should be tested using methods that allow simulating encounters with other maritime vessels in a range of unfavorable sea/weather conditions (Safety4Sea, 2020). However, those involved in projects to demonstrate MASS systems with the first degree of autonomy do not go on about specific technology-related issues that affect the safety of currently available systems.


Safety4Sea. (2020). Humans reach year of decision on the autonomous ship. Web.

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