Uncrewed Belgian sea vessels will be able to operate in Dutch waters

Belgian uncrewed vessels will soon operate in Dutch waters after minister for the North Sea Paul Van Tigchelt signed a cooperation agreement with the Netherlands on Monday.

In mid-September, Belgium signed agreements with the UK and Denmark to make it administratively easier for such ships to cross their borders. This arrangement will now be replicated between Belgium and the Netherlands.

"The countries agree to harmonise their procedures as far as possible and to exchange knowledge," Van Tigchelt's office said on Tuesday. "They want to avoid unnecessary administrative burdens and make it easier for the industry to set up new projects with autonomous vessels in the North Sea."

In July 2021, Belgium was one of the first countries in the world to have a legal framework for crewless vessels in the North Sea. Many Belgian maritime companies are investing in the technology that yielded a world first last year when the Belgian uncrewed Mahi 2 sailed across the Atlantic, powered entirely by solar energy.

Van Tigchelt will attend the General Assembly of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in London this week. In addition to autonomous shipping, maritime safety is an essential topic for Belgium. A resolution has therefore been submitted to call for additional attention “to the challenges posed by organised crime and calls for work on an adapted international framework”.

On Friday, Belgium hopes to be elected to the Council of the IMO, the organisation's executive body, for the eighth time in a row.


Presentation of Project Mahi, April 2019, in Ostend ©BELGA PHOTO ADRIAAN CLYNCKEMAILLIE

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