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The University of Southampton
Southampton Law School

Influencing law reform at IMO

Published: 30 May 2018

Robert Veal, Lecturer in Law, led the delegation of the Comité Maritime International at the 99th meeting of the Safety Committee at the International Maritime Organization, the specialist UN agency charged with the regulation of shipping. Robert has represented the NGO at IMO for a number of years now.

Image of IMO event

This meeting of the MSC was historic as it saw IMO take its first steps into the regulation of autonomous shipping. The meeting saw the creation of a Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) Working Group which would start the reform process necessary to facilitate autonomous operations. The MASS Working Group will undertake an extensive review of extant IMO regulations to consider the extent to which they need to be adapted in order exploit this exciting technology.

During the meeting a number of key developments were made:

  • a provisional glossary of MASS definitions
  • a working taxonomy for the degrees of MASS autonomy and;
  • a standard form framework for the review and annotation of extant regulations.

The MASS Working Group was attended by 41 States and 22 NGOs and IGOs which made agreement on these crucial issues at this stage a quite remarkable feat. The Working Group’s output was duly accepted by the MSC plenary. With the reform framework in place, now the hard work can begin to identify priorities for reform and in turn, to consider what the new law should look like.

Through the CMI, Robert is playing a leading role in this watershed marine law reform process.

For more information please visit the IMO website .

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