Flag states add weight to autonomous skills working group

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Nine flag states have joined the MASSPeople international working group for remote and autonomous training standards, launched last year to drive a focus on the human aspect of autonomous vessels.

Netherlands, UK, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Italy and Poland have joined early members, including technology companies SeaBot Maritime and Fugro, to help develop training and competency standards that the maritime workforce will need as automated and remote technology emerges.


Ross Macfarlane, chairperson of the MASSPeople group, said: “We are preparing for the future and the transition to remote and autonomous technology, which is already changing the way our industry operates. This new technology contributes to creating a safe and livable world, but it is ultimately our people who make change happen and MASSPeople will ensure they are fully trained and supported in their important mission.”


MASSPeople works to develop new job roles and profiles for the people that will be involved in ensuring the safe operation of autonomous vessels. These profiles will inform recommendations on standards for discussion at the IMO, where a roadmap to autonomous vessels is being prepared. The group will also propose specialisms, training structures and qualification requirements.


Gordon Meadow, CEO of SeaBot and co-chairperson of MASSPeople, told Fathom that there is both a skills gap and a skills lag that could prevent maritime from maximizing the potential of increasing autonomy.

Gordon Meadow
“We must provide essential skills in working with decision-support technology” says Gordon Meadow, MASSPeople co-chair


“The key to innovative technology adoption is not solely dependent upon creating and training for entirely new roles,” he said. “Key to success is helping current personnel to adapt too.  The current workforce require retraining and assimilation of new skills to perform new functions through continuing professional development.”


In April 2021 IMO completed a regulatory scoping exercise on Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) to see how its instruments might apply to ships with varying degrees of automation. The organisation’s Maritime Safety Committee began work on the development of a goal-based instrument regulating the operation of autonomous vessels in April. The instrument, which will is scheduled for adoption as a non-mandatory code in late 2024, with a mandatory MASS Code to enter force in 2028.


“It is crucial that shipping devotes more effort to building training that will truly underpin a sustainable and inclusive competency ecosystem between humans and machines, said Meadow. “We must provide essential skills in working with decision-support technology so that we combine our expertise with established rules and the use of analytical tools to deliver objective, repeatable actions, with the human working in, on and off the loop.”

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