THE OPERATION OF UNMANNED VESSEL IN LIGHT OF ARTICLE 94 OF THE LAW OF THE SEA CONVENTION: SEAMANNING REQUIREMENT
Rapid technological changes in the shipping industry offer advantages and present serious challenges to maritime security and safety. This is how we should respond to the emerging development of unmanned vessels, all the more so because the existing international legal framework was not developed to accommodate their operation at sea. Similarly, the International Maritime Organization has taken this seriously by forming groups to assess such operations’ compatibility with existing maritime conventions. One of the biggest challenges that unmanned vessels pose to the international legal framework concerns the sea manning requirement. This requirement is explicitly stipulated in the Law of the Sea Convention and elaborated in some conventions within International Maritime Organizations’ purview. Against this backdrop, this article attempts to answer whether the unmanned vessels operation is in contravention of international law, particularly provisions on the sea manning element of a ship. To that end, this article will (i) elaborate on the flag state obligations in Article 94 of the Law of the Sea Convention, (ii) explain and identify the Generally Accepted International Rules and Procedures concerning sea manning, and (iii) describe the efforts of the International Maritime Organization in addressing this phenomenon.
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