Step 1: Regulatory body overview
The relevant authorities and regulatory bodies are provided schematically in the flowchart of Fig. 5.
There are three main waterway authorities in Flanders. They are responsible for the construction and maintenance of the waterways and their banks, locks, bridges and towing paths.
De Vlaamse Waterweg NV (DVW) is responsible for the inland navigation.
Maritieme Toegang (MT) is responsible for the managing and maintaining of the waterways leading to the seaports of Antwerp, Ghent, Ostend and Zeebrugge, the so-called maritime access routes.
Maritieme Dienstverlening en Kust (MDK) is responsible for the traffic safety management on the maritime access routes.
The Flemish ports are responsible for the waterways in their territory.
The area where the demonstration with the PSB will take place is located on the waterways under the responsibility of DVW. The Ministry of Mobility and Public Works is responsible for preparing a part of the law concerning inland waterways. The Flemish Government approves the law in the form of decrees.
Flanders has adopted the European standard for establishing the technical regulations for inland vessels (ES-TRIN). This standard was developed by CESNI (Comité Européen pour l’Élaboration de Standards dans le Domaine de Navigation Intérieure), a cooperation between Member States of the European Union, the CCNR (Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine) and representatives of international organisations focusing on inland navigation. The goal of CESNI is to simplify the rules and regulations for inland waterways and to share knowledge between the different members to achieve a standardised approach for inland waterways. Exceptions can only be granted based on the advice from CESNI. The exception would be then valid for the whole European Union.
Step 2: Relevant regulation overview
A mapping of the rules and regulations applicable to the IWW use case and covered by the investigation is given in Table 1 and a short description of these regulations is provided below.
The European Directive 2016/1629/EC (CESNI 2017) refers to European Standard laying down Technical Requirements for Inland Navigation vessels (ESTRIN). ESTRIN is mandatory both for European Union countries and CCNR countries.
The European Directive 2008/68/EC (UNECE 2019) refers to the Annexed Regulations of the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Inland Waterways (ADN). The IWW use case does not include the carriage of dangerous goods. The European Directive 2008/68/EC has therefore not been considered.
As the ship is operating on Rhine connected canals, regulations relevant to Rhine convention are applicable here. The RPNR contain navigation police provisions drawn up by the CCNR police regulation committee. The regulations for the Rhine navigation personnel (RPN) provide a framework defining the crew member minimum number, qualification, training and resting time.
The European Directive 1996/50/EC (European Commission 1996) harmonises the conditions for obtaining national boat masters’ certificates for the carriage of goods and passengers by inland waterway in the Community.
The European Directive 2014/112/EC (European Commission 2014) implements the European Agreement concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time in inland waterway transport.
The Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR) initiated the Strasbourg Convention on the limitation of liability in inland navigation (CLNI) 1988 based on the model of the convention on the limitation of liability for marine claims (LLMC). The Strasbourg Convention of 2012  modernised and repealed the Strasbourg convention of 1988. The purpose is to allow ship owners and crew members of inland vessels and their salvors to set a maximum amount to limit their liability in respect of claims made in connection with a single incident. The application of the CLNI convention to the autonomous vessels seems to raise no issues regardless of the level of automation.
The Strasbourg Convention on the collection, deposit and reception of waste generated during navigation on the Rhine (CCNR 1996) and other inland waterways was signed on 9 September 1996. The main objective of this Convention is to protect the environment and to improve safety in inland navigation.
The European Code for Inland Waterways  is drawn up by the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) and covers police regulations for the navigation of European inland waterway network. The problems raised by the applicability of the CEVNI Code to the autonomous vessel concept are similar to those related to the applicability of the RPNR.
The Belgian Royal Decree of 24/09/2006  regulates the navigation of vessels on inland waterway networks in Belgium. For most waterways, there are special regulations that include site-specific operational provisions. Inside the area that will be used for the AUTOSHIP project IWW demonstrator testing, the special Ship Navigation Regulation for the Brussels-Scheldt Canal also must be followed.
Step 3: Regulatory gap analysis
European Directive 2016/1629/EC (ESTRIN)
The areas where amendments or new developments are required and/or other relevant findings for ESTRIN are given in Table 2. These regulations need to be adapted for vessels at CCNR automation level 3 and above. In particular, new technical requirements applicable to smart systems need to be developed.
Police Regulations for the Navigation of the Rhine (RPNR)
The areas where amendments or new developments are required for RPNR and/or other relevant findings are given Table 3. These regulations need to be adapted for vessels at CCNR automation level 3 and above.
Regulations for the Rhine Navigation Personnel (RPN)
The areas where amendments or new developments are required and/or other relevant findings for the RPN are given in Table 4. These regulations need to be adapted for vessels at CCNR level 3 and above of automation.
European Directive 2014/112/EC
The areas where amendments or new developments are required and/or other relevant findings for the European Directive 2014/112/EC are given in Table 5. These regulations need to be adapted for vessels at CCNR level 3 and above of automation.
CDNI Strasbourg convention of 1996 and CLNI Strasbourg convention of 2012
The areas where amendments or new developments are required and/or other relevant findings for the European Directive 2014/112/EC are given in Table 6. These regulations need to be adapted for vessels at CCNR level 3 and above of automation. The application of the CLNI convention to the autonomous vessels seems to raise no problem regardless of the level of automation.
Belgian Royal Decree of 24/09/2006
The technical annex of the Decree is the General Police Regulations for navigation of inland waterways (RPNE) based on the European Code for Inland Waterways (CEVNI). The Decree is complemented by local regulations applicable to specific inland waterways. The problems raised by the applicability of the Belgian Decree to the autonomous vessel concept are similar to those related to the applicability of the RPNR.
Step 4: Recommendations for overcoming the identified gaps
An overarching strategy
This study proposes the adaptation of the three-phase strategy depicted in the flowchart of Fig. 6 for the introduction of inland waterway autonomous ships. The first phase includes the introduction of prototypes of autonomous/unmanned ships. These prototypes will be allowed to operate in the local waters of one or several countries. Their certification and approval will be based on the risk assessment results, focusing on the already identified regulatory gaps provided in previous sections. The operation of the prototype will be then allowed adopting several stringent safety measures based on outcomes of risk assessment.
Phase 2 includes the development of an initial design code for autonomous ships based on the experience and test results from the prototypes and their risk assessments carried out in Phase 1. The code development requires the repetition of the risk assessment process, but employing more accurate and up-to-date data. The design code will employ as input the regulatory gaps and will provide equivalent (with respect to safety) design measures/functions installed on the autonomous/unmanned vessels or infrastructure. During this phase, the wide commercial operation of the autonomous vessels could be allowed.
During Phase 3, the initial design code would be updated based on the safety incidences observed on autonomous/unmanned vessels using the information received from a fleet of autonomous/unmanned vessels. The use of safety precursors is critical herein, to reduce possibility of any large accident. For this purpose, automatic recording systems, more advanced than the current Voyage Data Recorders, would be required.
In this section, the proposed approach to overcome the regulatory barriers in national level is presented. The Flemish Decree containing various provisions on mobility policy, public works and transport, traffic safety policy and VVM - De Lijn was published on June 24, 2019, and contains a chapter on innovation (Chapter 3). Articles 50 and 51 of Chapter 3 describe the possibility of Flemish waterway authorities to give temporary exemptions on certain rules and regulations to enable tests with innovative concepts. Those concepts may also include automated systems on board ships or on-shore. The temporary exemptions concern rules and regulations about the crew, the navigation of the ship, the technical aspects or the equipment of the ship, the regulation of shipping traffic and the regulations with regard to the activities on board and ashore. The deviations cannot relate to provisions on supervision and enforcement and to provisions of a criminal nature.
For accepting the testing of autonomous ships’ prototypes or pilot projects, the following matters must be determined:
The purpose of the testing or the pilot project
The waterways, waterway sections or parts of the port area, in which the testing or pilot projects are carried out
The period of the admission
The rules can be exempted/deviated from and, where relevant, the conditions under which these exemptions/deviations are permitted
The safety measures taken for the implementation of the testing or the pilot project.
The waterway manager or the port authority may withdraw the acceptance of testing or pilot projects, in whole or in part, if he/she identifies that the safety of crew, assets and environment is affected. Therefore, these proposals need to be complemented by additional recommendations, which must be derived from the outcomes of the MASS operation safety and cybersecurity assessment.
The Flemish authorities are already in Phase 1 of the proposed strategy by this study (Fig. 6). Similar approach can be adopted by the nations interested in testing of autonomous technology in their local waters.
However, there is an immense need to proceed in the next phase (Phase 2 of the proposed strategy) to allow the commercial operation of autonomous ships that incorporate novel technologies. Allowing commercial operation needs another adaptation of the law in the national regulatory framework. This would require the involvement of other national authorities, such as the Ministry of Mobility and Public Works and ports for issuing regulations by the Flemish authorities, similar to the one developed for the conventional ships (a novel design code). The identified regulatory gaps can be addressed by using the principle of equivalent safety with the existing ships and/or the principle of As Low As Reasonably Practical (ALARP) risks. It should also be acknowledged that the process of developing new regulations or amending existing regulations is time-demanding at both regional and national levels.
This section elaborates on the proposals for adoption of the autonomous vessels to overcome the regulatory barriers in European level, which are quite similar with the ones described in the previous section for the Flemish authorities. Within the scope of this analysis, it is important to highlight the existence of Article 25 of the European Directive 2016/1629, which promotes the use of new technologies and derogations for specific vessels in order to encourage innovation (similarly with Flemish decree). This constitutes a legal tool to allow for testing of autonomous vessels in a limited area occupying several European countries in a regional project. Hence, the European regulation level belongs at Phase 1 of the proposed strategy of this study (Fig. 6).
Likewise, with proposals for the national regulatory bodies, the long-term operation of the autonomous and remotely controlled ships in European inland waterways could be ensured, if relevant design codes for autonomous ships are adopted by the pertinent regulatory bodies, such as CESNI and CCNR. Thus, it is crucial to establish a close dialog with these administrations as early as possible. Further development would require the initiation of a working group at CESNI and CCNR level involving experts from a wide range of areas (design, operation, safety, regulatory), which would address the identified gaps, and by considering the existing and novel technologies to develop new regulation guiding the development of autonomous vessels based on the principle of equivalent and ALARP safety.