Recent Work by US Coast Guard and the Federal Navigation Safety

Recent Work by US Coast Guard and the
Navigation Safety Advisory Council
with Regard to Unmanned
Presentation to Maritime Law
Association’s Committee on
Regulation of Vessel Operations,
Safety, Security and Navigation
April 28, 2015
Jeffrey Moller
Navigation Safety Advisory Council
(NAVSAC) is a group of maritime industry
professionals constituted as a Federal Advisory
Committee to assist the US Coast Guard in setting
policy with respect to matters of navigation safety,
most often pertaining to the COLREGS and the
Inland Navigation Rules.
Recent Agenda Items for NAVSAC:
1. Virtual or synthetic aids to navigation (ATON).
2. Vessel traffic issues with respect to proposed
offshore wind farms.
3. Modernization of system for providing up-to-date
navigation safety information.
4. Promoting the interest of navigation in marine
planning policy.
5. Unmanned Maritime Systems Best Practices.
Unmanned Maritime Systems Issue
1. First presented to USCG and NAVSAC by
industry in 2008.
2. Industry seeks operational guidance, primarily to
guide risk assessment and insurance decisions.
3. U.S. Navy and NOAA operate UMS also.
4. Multiple presentations by industry representatives
with respect to varieties of vessels/vehicles, their
limitations, uses and challenges.
5. Amendments to COLREGS considered.
The Challenge Presented by UMS
1. Some are totally autonomous, possibly pre-programmed.
2. Some are drone-like, i.e., controlled by an operator.
3. Multiple missions - Some are operated by US Navy; some
by academia; some by oil/gas; some by governmentalsponsored researchers.
4. Some can display lights and shapes – some cannot.
5. Most cannot keep a “lookout” in any traditional sense.
6. Most are restricted in their ability to maneuver, some are
7. Some are definitely conducting “special operations” and
are restricted in ability to maneuver.
8. All of them are EXPENSIVE.
Examples of UMS that Might be Encountered
Naval Target Drone
Lightweight, easily deployed, highly maneuverable fast
marine target boat. The system is designed for use in naval
gunnery training, weapons testing and ship command and
control assessments.
Examples of UMS that Might be Encountered
Military and Security Unmanned Marine Vehicles
High performance unmanned surface vehicle (USV) designed to
offer a high degree of directional stability, substantial towing
capacity for long-endurance mine sweeping missions and a
robust electrical generating capacity to support modern mine
sweeping equipment requirements.
Examples of UMS that Might be Encountered
Military and Security Unmanned Marine Vehicles
Uses an autonomous controller and station keeping system. Power is
provided by a diesel electric hybrid system featuring two industrial
brushless propulsion motors each driving a propeller via a marinizing
gearbox. The hull has been optimized for ocean performance and ease
of launch and recovery.
Examples of UMS that Might be Encountered
Military and Security Unmanned Marine Vehicles
Oil field services unmanned surface vehicle. Designed to
conduct subsea positioning, surveying and environmental
monitoring without the need of a ship on station or sea-bed
Examples of UMS that Might be Encountered
Military and Security Unmanned Marine Vehicles
Lightweight, easily deployed, highly maneuverable
multipurpose work class Unmanned Surface Vehicle
(USV). Designed for use in water quality sampling,
environmental assessments and hydrography.
The COLREGS and Inland Rules Challenges
 Should the Lookout Rule (Rule 5) be altered?
 Do UMS qualify as “vessels” under the rules or per
case law? (Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach).
 Can any manned vessel be said to be “in sight of” an
unmanned vessel?
 What lights, shapes or sounds can a UMS
exhibit/make? (Parts C and D)
 Should UMS be given priority as vessels “not under
command” or “restricted in ability to maneuver”?
(Rule 18)
USCG Draft “Best Practices” Document
1. Include UMS in definition of “vessel” if the UMS is
used or capable of being used as a means of
2. Modify Rule 5 to require lookouts for only “manned”
vessels, but requiring UMS to “allow for spatial
awareness” using radar and/or “other available
3. Require a UMS to keep clear of all other vessels
under Rule 18.
4. Add requirement for flashing light, per advice of
industry as to feasibility.
NAVSAC Reaction to Best Practices Document
 If UMS qualifies as a “vessel” under existing law, it
should comply with all existing COLREG/Inland Rule
 No modification to existing COLREG/Inland Rule
 If UMS not classifiable as vessel, it is presumptively a
“hazard to navigation” and should be operated and
equipped to eliminate unreasonable risk of collision and
 UMS owners/operators should maintain third party
liability insurance sufficient to cover foreseeable risks.