UK: Houlder, MCA team up for autonomous vessel review work

A consortium, led by ship engineering consultancy Houlder, has been collaborating with the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on the first large autonomous vessel review work in what was described as a ‘watershed moment for smart shipping’.

Courtesy of Houlder
Courtesy of Houlder

The review work has been a collaboration with Robosys, an advanced robotics technology company specialising in the design and operation of autonomous systems for the maritime sector, and Holman Fenwick Willian International LLP (HFW), an international law firm.

As disclosed, the consortium has been working with the MCA to identify regulatory gaps and barriers to the development of safe, secure and environmentally-friendly autonomous and remotely-operated vessel operations over 24 metres in length, which are also known as maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS).

The work included reviewing existing UK primary and secondary legislation and international instruments to identify regulatory and security issues.

Additionally, a workshop to explore key questions on MASS rendering assistance to persons in distress was organised and key questions working with the MCA were answered.

The aim of the project is to explore how operations of these vessels might be addressed in the UK’s primary and secondary legislation and the degree to which existing legislation might be affected to accommodate MASS operations.

For this project, HFW led the work on physical and cyber security legislation while Robosys contributed its expertise in the operation and development of maritime autonomy to lead the workshop.

Houlder used its experience in maritime naval architecture projects to identify regulatory issues, and coordinate and deliver on the project aim.

Arun Pillai, principal engineer and project manager at Houlder, said: “This collaboration is an interesting opportunity to support the UK’s leading position in autonomy, to aid MCA’s international discussions, and work with other innovative organisations located in the UK.”

The UK’s MCA is one of the founding members of the Maritime Technologies Forum (MTF) which seeks to bridge the gap between technology knowledge and the regulatory process.

Key focus areas for the forum include energy efficiency, alternative fuels and increasing levels of autonomy.

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