Now, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee will start to establish a new international legal framework for the safe operation of autonomous ships, says a statement from Danish Maritime Authority.
Together with a number of countries, Denmark, has taken the initiative to include autonomous shipping on the IMO agenda.
United Nations' IMO is in line with the proposal and will now start mapping how existing international regulation can be applied to autonomous ships and maritime technologies; technologies that are developing rapidly these years.
Minister for Industry, Business and Financial Affairs Brian Mikkelsen said: "We, on the Danish part, want international regulation to be abreast of technological developments, not least so that the new technology can contribute to enhancing safety at sea. It is important that also public authorities focus on encouraging innovation and development in shipping and especially initiatives that will promote digitalisation and automation."
"The efforts made in the IMO shows that we are frontrunners when it comes to securing international framework conditions that will give Blue Denmark a possibility of utilising in the best possible way its global position of strength in the development and use of new, innovative solutions, Mr. Brian Mikkelsen continues.
The proposal to include autonomous ships on the IMO agenda has been submitted by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Japan
, the Netherlands, Norway
, South Korea, United Kingdom and the US. It gave rise to a prolonged debate, which showed that many safety and legal issues still remain to be solved as regards autonomous shipping.
Despite some concern, it was generally agreed that the IMO needs to start its work now. There was also general agreement that the IMO must take into consideration how developments will affect the seafarers.
In connection with the meeting, Denmark also hosted a presentation by representatives from Mærsk and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) of their specific work on autonomous ships.
In Denmark, the Danish Maritime Authority has already taken a number of initiatives in this area and is, inter alia, about to finalise a study of maritime regulation that will be affected by autonomous ships.