Flag, coastal and port authorities’ representatives from eight countries have launched the MASSPorts initiative to promote maritime autonomous surface ship development.

Representatives from China, Denmark, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea and Singapore convened during a virtual meeting for the launch of the event on 4 August.

International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) and International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) representatives also participated in the event.

The initiative involves states and organisations, which aim to solve issues related to the trials and operation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS).

They also aim to achieve alignment of standards for the operation.

The network aims to develop detailed guidelines and conditions for undertaking MASS trials at the ports, which will follow the interim guidelines of the IMO for MASS trials.

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The initiative also aims to set common terminology, form and standards of communication, along with autonomous ship reporting and data exchange, which is expected to boost the system interoperability across different ports.

In addition, it will facilitate port-to-port MASS trials to copy the international nature of shipping in order to validate the guidelines and conditions for MASS trials.

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore CEO Quah Ley Hoon said: “Autonomous navigation is an important part of our plans to be a future-ready port.

“We see MASS having the potential to enhance navigational safety and increase productivity. We are glad to work with like-minded international partners who are aligned in shaping the future of international shipping.”

In November last year, Maritime UK published the third version of its Code of Practice, which includes updated guidelines on the operation, evaluation and deployment planning of MASS.

In 2018, IMO began work to identify the safety, security and environmental aspects of MASS operations in line with the existing IMO standards.