Bishop of St Albans asks about duty to render assistance at sea for automated ships

The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 3rd May 2023:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to uphold the obligation “to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost” under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea once fully automated ships are brought into service.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con): Automated Ships, or MASS (Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships), will be expected to meet the same United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) obligations to render assistance as conventional (non-MASS) ships. The obligations to render assistance under UNCLOS already provides flexibility for the Master by stating “in so far as he can do so without serious danger to this ship, the crew or the passengers”. This flexibility means that the level of assistance that may be rendered varies depending on ship type, size, capabilities etc. so although a MASS may not be able to render the same level of assistance as a conventional ship, they will be able to render assistance in line with the obligation under UNCLOS.


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