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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

Autonomous ships, e-navigation and safety communications are on IMO’s agenda

Mon 14 May 2018 by Martyn Wingrove

Autonomous ships, e-navigation and safety communications are on IMO’s agenda
IMO member states will be discussing amendments to maritime regulations and approving different communications technology

IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) is expected to adopt a number of key regulatory elements in communications and navigation during its meeting starting this week.

In its 99th session, between 16-25 May, MSC will consider IMO’s strategy on e-navigation, addition of new shipping routes and safety communications.

All 173 IMO member states and three associate members are expected to attend MSC 99. There will also be SOLAS contracting governments that are not IMO member states, intergovernmental organisations and international non-governmental organisations at the meetings.

MSC 99 will begin looking at how the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) may be introduced in IMO instruments.

It is expected to approve an updated IMO e-navigation strategy implementation plan and approve interim guidelines for the harmonised display of navigation information received via communications equipment.

Also for ship navigation, MSC is expected to adopt new and amended ship routeing measures. This includes routes in the Bering Sea and Bering Strait, aimed at reducing the risks of incidents. It could also approve a traffic separation scheme and other routeing measures in Dangan Channel, China; in the vicinity of Kattegat, off Denmark and Sweden; and introduce an area to be avoided off the coast of Ghana in the Atlantic Ocean.

MSC 99 is set to adopt amendments to the revised performance standards for integrated navigation systems (INS) (resolution MSC.252(83) relating to the harmonisation of bridge design and display of information.

It will also approve updates to the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue manual, including a new section related to search and rescue operations in remote areas. Another approval is expected on the consolidated Revised Emergency Response Procedures for Ships Carrying Dangerous Goods (EmS Guide).

MSC 99 will also consider extending the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) to non-SOLAS vessels, including cargo ships of less than 500 gt, fishing vessels and pleasure yachts.

The committee is set to amend SOLAS chapter IV, replacing all references to Inmarsat with references to a ‘recognised mobile satellite service’ that will enable other satellite operators to be considered for mandatory safety communications.

This includes considering recognition of Iridium as a provider of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). MSC 99 is also expected to approve provision of transferring some elements of GMDSS on to one of Inmarsat’s fourth generation satellites.

The committee is likely to adopt performance standards for shipborne Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System receiver equipment and approve amendments to the continuity of service plan for the global Long Range Identification and tracking (LRIT) system and LRIT technical documentation.

There will also be a summary of recent piracy activity, which has increased significantly this year with 36 incidents reported in the Gulf of Guinea in the first four months of 2018, compared to 17 in the same period in 2017.

Reports from working groups will be presented covering safety measures for non-SOLAS ships operating in polar waters, implementing goal-based standards and developing regulations for maritime autonomous surface ships.

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