Workshop on establishing scenarios for the development of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS)

Location Date
IALA Headquarters 02 October 2023 - 03 October 2023
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The development of new technologies, digitalisation and automation may rapidly change the way maritime transport works and operates. Development towards fully or partly autonomous ships will pose both opportunities and challenges for the sector in terms of safety, security, sustainability, existing legal frameworks, and operations.

A MASS has been defined as a ship which, to a varying degree, can operate independently of human interaction.

As a result, the IMO has identified four degrees of autonomy for the purpose of the scoping exercise:

  • Degree one: Ship with automated processes and decision support: Seafarers are on board to operate and control shipboard systems and functions. Some operations may be automated and at times be unsupervised but with seafarers on board ready to take control.
  • Degree two: Remotely controlled ship with seafarers on board: The ship is controlled and operated from another location. Seafarers are available on board to take control and to operate the shipboard systems and functions.
  • Degree three: Remotely controlled ship without seafarers on board: The ship is controlled and operated from another location. There are no seafarers on board.
  • Degree four: Fully autonomous ship: The operating system of the ship is able to make decisions and determine actions by itself.

At its 72nd session, the IALA Council discussed the development of MASS and reaffirmed its position that there is a need to increase focus on developing MASS related IALA guidance, and the Council decided to establish a MASS Task Force to assist IALA in:

  • Identifying possible future scenarios while considering the evolution of MASS;
  • analysing the possible impact of MASS on Marine Aids to Navigation;
  • identifying the future requirements on Marine Aids to Navigation service; and
  • identify possible MASS related work items for the IALA committees.

The first bullet point, identifying possible future scenarios while considering the evolution of MASS, will require expertise from outside of IALA’s membership to develop. To our knowledge such scenarios have not been developed and could also serve to guide other areas of the maritime sector.

The main outcome of the workshop is therefore to develop possible future scenarios for employment of MASS. The workshop is free of charge and will be hosted in IALA HQ in Paris on 2-3 October 2023.

The purpose of the workshop will be to collaboratively develop scenarios for the employment of MASS over the next 5, 10, 15, or 20 years. How many, what type of ships, where and with what challenges.

This workshop will bring together representatives from shipowners, ports and infrastructure, manufacturers, VTS Competent authorities/service providers, pilots, IMO, IHO and other relevant stakeholders.

The workshop will also provide an opportunity for participants to exchange ideas and best practices, and to identify areas where further research is needed. The outcomes of the workshop will be published in a report that can be used by stakeholders to inform their decision-making processes and planning for the future with regard to the future of MASS and related challenges and possibilities.