Mixed messages

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche
ShipInsight

20 June 2017


Perhaps its indicative of the modern world but there appears something a little contradictory in the IMO promoting the theme for the 2017 Day of the Seafarer which will be held on 25 June as Seafarers Matter, while simultaneously discussing the matter of autonomous and unmanned ships as MSC 98. Under the Seafarers Matter theme, the campaign is engaging people responsible for the world’s ports and seafarer centres to demonstrate how much seafarers matter to them by featuring great initiatives that support and promote seafarer welfare. A link to the Twitter pages for the campaign can be found on the IMO website at www.imo.org along with details of some of the events being planned. In addition, the website features a new Day of the Seafarer quiz, testing your knowledge of ports, maritime affairs and IMO instruments. At MSC 98 one of the agenda items was a proposal on how IMO instruments might be revised to address the issue to ensure safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS), including interactions with ports, pilotage, responses to incidents and marine pollution. Several commentators and shipping bodies have highlighted that in their present forms, international conventions such as SOLAS, MARPOL and GMDSS make no allowances for unmanned vessels and would need major revision to do so. At MSC98, the IMO agreed to start a regulatory scoping exercise over the four sessions of the Committee, until 2020, which would take into account the different levels of automation, including semi-autonomous and unmanned ships. While there is some initial interest in the concept of unmanned vessels, most believe that the Day of the Seafarer is not likely to be endangered for a very long time to come - if ever.