Classification society Indian Register of Shipping (IRClass) has published Guidelines on Remotely Operated Vessels and Autonomous Surface Vessels, providing a broad framework and philosophy for stakeholders involved in design, construction and testing of such vessels with varying levels of autonomy.

These Guidelines cover design philosophy, risk assessment, system requirements including cyber resilience, network architecture, data and software assurance. A separate chapter focuses on requirements of Remote Control Center which plays a critical role in monitoring and control of such vessels.

Autonomous controls are aimed at progressive levels of delegation of decision making and control execution functions normally carried out by the operator, to a computer system. Five levels of technological autonomy have been defined in the Guidelines.

Level 1- The system provides decision support for essential vessel systems. Decision making and control execution is by the operator

Level 2- In addition to level 1 capability, machinery and navigational systems can be remotely monitored and controlled.

Level 3- In addition to Level 2 capability, the system can select best alternative to initiate control action when permitted by the operator.

Level 4- In addition to Level 3 capability, the system can initiate a control action. The system waits for predetermined time before executing the action.

Level 5- In addition to Level 4 capability, the system can select the best alternative and execute in autonomous mode.

In all levels of autonomy, the operator can intervene in emergency. These levels of autonomy will cater to the diverse industry segments based on usage requirements.

N Girish, IRClss’ Head of Rule Development and Associated Research, said, “These guidelines have been developed through close interaction with the industry and various stakeholders and will continue to evolve. Vessels complying with these guidelines will be issued class notations as per their level of autonomy.”

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