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Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Equipment (DE), 53rd session: 22 - 26 February 2010


Replacing unsafe lifeboat release mechanisms - guidelines agreed by Sub-Committee
Draft guidelines to ensure release mechanisms for lifeboats are replaced with those complying with new, stricter safety standards have been agreed by the 53rd session of the Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Equipment (DE) in order to reduce the number of accidents involving lifeboats, particularly those which have occurred during drills or inspection.
 
The draft Guidelines for evaluation and replacement of lifeboat on-load release mechanisms will be submitted to the Maritime Safety Committee in May (MSC 87) for approval, alongside the anticipated adoption of amendments to the International Life-Saving Appliances (LSA) Code and the Recommendation on testing of LSA, which require safer design of on-load release mechanisms, as well as a related draft amendment to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), chapter III Life-saving appliances, which will require lifeboat on-load release mechanisms not complying with the new LSA Code requirements to be replaced no later than the next scheduled dry-docking of the ship following entry into force of the SOLAS amendments.
 
The Sub-Committee recommended that Administrations and shipowners be strongly urged to use the guidelines to evaluate existing lifeboat on-load release mechanisms at the earliest available opportunity, in advance of the entry into force of the new SOLAS and LSA Code amendments.
 
The Sub-Committee also agreed draft amendments to the Revised recommendation on testing of life-saving appliances concerning test procedures for lifeboat hooks, for adoption by MSC 87.
 
This new package of amendments and guidelines addressing lifeboat release mechanisms follows intensive work within the DE Sub-Committee and by the MSC, over a number of years, to address the significant number of serious injuries and fatalities which had been occurring during lifeboat drills and inspections.
 
Measures which have already been adopted/approved, to address the prevention of accidents involving lifeboats, include:
  • May 2004: MSC 78 adopts amendments to SOLAS chapter III Regulation 19 (Emergency training and drills) and Regulation 20 (Operational readiness, maintenance and inspections), concerning the conditions in which lifeboat emergency training and drills should be conducted, which introduce changes to the operational tests to be conducted during weekly and monthly inspections, so as not to require the assigned crew to be on board in all cases (the amendments entered into force on 1 July 2006);
  • May 2006: MSC 81 approves guidelines to implement the 2004 SOLAS amendments: Guidelines for periodic servicing and maintenance of lifeboats, launching appliances and on-load release gear and Guidelines on safety during abandon ship drills using lifeboats (MSC.1/Circ.1206; while MSC.1/Circ.1206/Rev.1, issued in 2009, updated the guidelines);
  • December 2006: MSC 82 amends SOLAS regulation III/19.3.3.4 concerning provisions for the launch of free-fall lifeboats during abandon-ship drills, to allow, during such drills, for the lifeboat to either be free-fall launched with only the required operating crew on board, or lowered into the water by means of the secondary means of launching without the operating crew on board, and then manoeuvred in the water by the operating crew. Also, the LSA Code is amended to require safer design of on-load release mechanisms (hooks) of lifeboats (the amendments to SOLAS and the LSA Code entered into force on 1 July 2008);
  • May 2008: MSC 84 approves Interim recommendation on conditions for authorization of service providers for lifeboats, launching appliances and on-load release gear (MSC.1/Circ.1277); and
  • June 2009: MSC 86 approves Guidelines for the fitting and use of fall preventer devices (MSC.1/Circ.1327).
Safe working load of liferaft launching appliances on passenger ships
The Sub-Committee agreed to a draft Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) circular on Determination of the required safe working load of liferaft launching appliances on passenger ships, for submission to MSC 88 in December 2010 for approval.
 
Standard colour for lifeboats agreed
The Sub-Committee agreed to draft amendments to the LSA Code to require lifeboats to "be of international or vivid reddish orange, on all parts where this will assist detection at sea" and to delete reference to allowing "a comparably highly visible colour", as permitted in amendments set to enter into force on 1 July 2010.
 
The proposed amendments to the LSA Code paragraph 1.2.2.6 will be submitted to MSC 88 in December 2010 for approval, with a view to adoption.
 
Standards for recovery systems further developed
The Sub-Committee continued its work on developing performance standards for recovery systems for all ships with a view to finalizing its considerations by the 2012 target date set by the MSC.
 
The aim is to ensure that all ship types will eventually have the necessary capability to serve effectively as rescue assets and to have means to rescue people from the water or from survival craft, particularly when a professional rescue service is not available, either at all or not in due time,.
 
Development of mandatory Code for ships operating in polar waters
A correspondence group was established to further develop the draft International Code of safety for ships operating in polar waters (Polar Code), which would cover the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in the inhospitable waters surrounding the two poles. The move to develop a mandatory Code follows the adoption by the IMO Assembly, in 2009, of Guidelines for ships operating in polar waters (Resolution A.1024(26)).
 
During discussion on the development of the mandatory Code it was noted that there was overwhelming support to develop a risk-based Code with functional requirements supported by prescriptive provisions; the Code should contain both mandatory and recommendatory parts and that, apart from common requirements, there should also be separate requirements for the Arctic and Antarctic; the Code would apply in polar waters only and ships not trading in polar regions would not need to comply with its requirements; and the Code should be made mandatory under SOLAS and/or MARPOL.
 
Performance standards for cargo oil tank coatings in crude oil tankers agreed
The Sub-Committee finalized the draft Performance standard for protective coatings for cargo oil tanks of crude oil tankers and the draft Performance standard for alternative means of corrosion protection for cargo oil tanks of crude oil tankers, for submission to MSC 87 for adoption, alongside the adoption of a draft new SOLAS regulation on Corrosion protection of cargo oil tanks of crude oil tankers making the performance standards mandatory, which was approved by the MSC at its last session. The regulation would require all cargo oil tanks of crude oil tankers to be protected against corrosion.
 
UI on coatings in dedicated seawater ballast tanks agreed
A draft MSC circular on Unified Interpretation of the Performance Standard for protective coatings (PSPC) for dedicated seawater ballast tanks in all types of ships and double-side skin spaces of bulk carriers adopted by resolution MSC.215(82), based on the relevant IACS unified interpretations, was agreed by the Sub-Committee.
 
Guidelines for alternative arrangements for ship bottom inspections agreed
The Sub-Committee agreed draft Guidelines for the assessment of technical provisions for the performance of an in-water survey in lieu of bottom inspection in dry-dock to permit one dry-dock examination in any five-year period for passenger ships other than ro-ro passenger ships, for submission to MSC 87 for approval.
 
Draft safety provisions for passenger ship tenders developed
The Sub-Committee developed draft Guidelines for passenger ship tenders, intended for ship-carried tenders used for transferring more than 12 passengers from a stationary passenger ship to shore and back. The guidelines will be further developed at DE 54, with input to relevant sections of the guidelines from the Sub-Committees on Fire Protection (FP); Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR); Safety of Navigation (NAV); Stability and Load Lines and on Fishing Vessels' Safety (SLF); and Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW).