Charting Legal Waters: The Journey Of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS)


  • The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Legal Committee (LEG) recently convened its 111th session from April 22 to 26, 2024, during which a roadmap for addressing legal issues concerning Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) was approved.
  • This roadmap outlines significant milestones and considerations for the integration of autonomous vessels into maritime operations.

Key Dates and Objectives

1. LEG 112 (Spring, 2025): The LEG will assess the finalized non-mandatory MASS Code and consider the need for amendments or interpretations of treaties under its purview. This assessment will be based on the outcomes of the MASS-JWG (Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships Joint Working Group), as well as input from the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and the Facilitation Committee (FAL). Additionally, proposals for guidelines on implementing LEG instruments by MASS will be considered.

2. LEG 113 (Spring, 2026): The LEG will evaluate the approved mandatory MASS Code and determine if any amendments or interpretations of treaties are necessary.

3. LEG 114 (Spring, 2027): This session will focus on adopting or approving amendments to treaties under the LEG’s jurisdiction, addressing legal issues related to MASS.


The Committee endorsed the report of the MASS-JWG, which convened its second session in April 2023. The MASS-JWG report outlined key elements regarding the role and responsibilities of MASS masters, crew, and remote operation centers. Key agreements from the report include:

  • Human Master Responsibility: Regardless of the degree of autonomy, a human master will be responsible for each MASS.
  • Remote Operation: Depending on MASS technology and human presence onboard, the master may not need to be physically present.
  • Intervention Capability: Masters must have the means to intervene when necessary, regardless of autonomy level.
  • Single Master Responsibility: Only one master should be responsible for a MASS at any given time, with exceptions under specific conditions.
  • Discussion on Multiple MASS Responsibility: Further discussion is needed to determine circumstances where a single master could be responsible for multiple MASS.Did you subscribe to our daily Newsletter?

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    Source: Safety4sea