MASRWG Terms of Reference


The use of Maritime Autonomous Systems is developing at a fast pace and will continue grow as technology and research opens up new opportunities.  Research and operations to date have highlighted the important defence, scientific as well as economic benefits. The Maritime Autonomous Systems Regulatory Working Group (MASRWG) is being formed to identify the issues related to the operation of Maritime Autonomous Systems in all of the global designated maritime zones; from the high seas into internal waters, and formulate a regulatory framework that could be adopted by the UK and other States as well as the international bodies given the responsibility to regulate the marine and maritime world.

This regulatory framework will cover the following key aspects:

1.    Safety

2.    Environmental compliance 

3.    Compliance with UNCLOS

4.    Compliance with other key maritime and marine conventions where identified

Using an ‘equivalence’ approach the MASRWG will consider the following themes:


2.    Issues of ownership, registration and insurance

3.    Structural integrity with a view to developing a set of classification rules

4.    Requirements for additional training, accreditation and certification


It has been agreed that the work of the group shall initially focus on the regulatory framework for Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV).  The subject of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) is currently being reviewed by the Society for Underwater Technology(SUT).  It has also been agreed that the regulatory framework for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)/Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) being operated over recognised maritime zones will not fall within the remit of the MASRWG. However, the MASRWG will report on the implications of co-ordinated MAS operations including RPA/UAV on  the USV regulatory framework. 

The MASRWG brings together the breadth of views in relation to regulatory delivery across national and local regulators, professional bodies and policy departments to foster common approaches to regulatory challenges and share best practice.


The aim of the MASRWG is to engage with national bodies and through them to  international bodies and organisations as required, in the development of a regulatory framework for USV.

Particular activity will include:

A. Identify the current regulatory landscape at national and international levels to include:  

i. Customary Practice
ii. International Conventions
iii. National Legislation 
iv. Legal precedence through court cases

exploring where there is commonality and alignment in these sources of legislation that affect delivery of a UK MAS regulatory frameworkIdentify, evaluate and disseminate a UK MAS regulatory framework based on best practice at national and international levels;

B. Identify, evaluate and disseminate a UK MAS regulatory framework based on best practice at national and international levels;

C. Identify barriers and challenges to suggested improvements and areas of shared concern and formulate collective solutions to tackle these

D. Provide a forum to discuss UK regulator involvement;

E. Examine technical solutions to support the regulatory requirements;

F. Assess the regulatory landscape as identified at a). (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv) and to undertake general horizon scanning to ensure that the planned MAS regulatory delivery is viewed within the wider context;

G. Recommend a UK approach for future regulation and provide a suitable evidence base to underpin this approach and in doing so create greater clarity around the benefits of better regulation; and

H. Recommend priority areas impacting on the regulatory environment for discussion / problem solving and making proposals for future government funding.

Working Arrangements and Sub Groups

The MASRWG will meet up to six times per year and will be chaired by James Fanshawe, appointed by the MIA MAS Steering Group.  It is hoped that meetings will normally take place in London.

In addition, MASRWG may appoint sub groups to progress issues or actions under specified Terms of Reference and call upon external groups and domain experts to provide specific areas of expertise to underpin the work of the subgroups.


Membership of the MASRWG is open to those organisations that have a national interest in regulatory delivery.  The proposed members are as follows:

Membership of the MASRWG will be reviewed annually. 

Output of the MASRWG

A draft best practice regulatory framework for submission to the MCA as part of their Open Policy Approach.