Autonomous Vessel Design

In this whitepaper, ABS discusses the efforts to develop regulations at the IMO, proposes a goal-based framework for the application of future rules to autonomous vessel operations, and examines current issues in the implementation and operations of autonomous technology.

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What is Autonomous Technology?

Autonomous technology is gradually reshaping the commercial marine, government and offshore industries and has the potential to deliver benefits such as increased operational efficiency and safety, and reductions in human error and operational costs. This is not a singular technology, but is the result of rapid advancements in sensors and imaging, connectivity with the vessel, machine learning and more. But regulation, engineering and culture all present challenges as significant as the development of technology itself.

What are Autonomous and Remote-Control Functions?

Examples of autonomous and remote-control functions include:

  • Autonomous and remote-controlled navigation,
  • Collision detection and collision avoidance functions, and
  • Autonomous tow-line handling functions.

A function is defined as a group of tasks, duties and responsibilities necessary for vessel operation, safety of life at sea or protection of the marine environment. An autonomous function is a function where all 4 stages in the operational decision loop is performed by systems instead of a person.

A remote-control function is a function controlled in real-time from a remote location (either located on shore or on another vessel).

The ABS Requirements for Autonomous and Remote-Control Functions

The ABS Requirements for Autonomous and Remote-Control Functions sets out a goal-based framework for implementation and a risk-based approach for the assessment of autonomous and remote-control functions on marine vessels and offshore units. The publication offers two notations to marine vessels and offshore units fitted with permanently installed autonomous or remote-control functions that comply with the requirements.

Download the Requirements

Webinar: Understanding Autonomous and Remote-Control Functions

Learn more about developments in IMO MASS and autonomous and remote-control functions in our On-Demand Webinar.

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Developments in IMO Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS)

One of the most crucial activities in the development of autonomous technology in the maritime industry is the Regulatory Scoping Exercise for MASS by the IMO. The scoping exercise was concluded in May 2021 during the MSC.103 meeting, and the IMO identified common potential gaps and themes that need to be studied and resolved before advancing the drafting of requirements for autonomous operations. 

How Can ABS Assist?

ABS is actively participating in various international forums in advancing the development of the international regulatory framework for autonomous operations. ABS is also collaborating with members, industry, government regulators and stakeholders in the design and implementation on the world’s most advanced remote-control and autonomous technology. If you have an autonomous or remote-control function project and are interested in ABS support, contact us.