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Autonomous and remotely-operated ships

DNV GL Class Guideline

The IMO instruments governing the safety of commercial shipping do not provide any regulations for technologies and operational concepts required for autonomous or remotely-controlled ships. A safety framework will have to be established by IMO before the benefits of the technologies with respect to reduced or no manning on board can be achieved for international shipping.

National or regional regulatory bodies are, however, free to support the introduction of novel technologies and operational concepts within their territorial waters. The same societal expectations for maintaining the safety will apply. DNV GL has developed a guidance to support the actors in the industry and the regulatory bodies in documenting and assuring a safe implementation.

The area of autonomy and remote operations is still an immature field where new ideas and technical solutions are being introduced. It is therefore currently not possible or desirable to provide detailed rules for all areas and combinations of concepts. Hence, the overall assurance process must be risk-based, but supported by functional and detailed technical guidance where possible. The DNV GL guidance is planned to be further developed as more experience is gained from ongoing research-, new-building- and retrofitting projects.

The DNV GL guidance offers both Process and Technology Guidance, including the following areas:

Process guidance:

  • Concept Qualification, where the flag state is also involved and gives final approval
  • Technology Qualification

Technology Guidance, providing guidance to the design and arrangements of systems supporting autonomous and remote operation of vessels, with the objective to ensure a level of safety of navigation that is equivalent or better compared to a conventional vessel where navigation is performed by navigators on board. This includes:

  • Navigation functions
  • Vessel engineering functions
  • Remote control centers
  • Communication functions
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