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Goal-based construction standards for new ships

The notion of “goal-based ship construction standards” was introduced in IMO at the 89th session of the Council in November 2002 through a proposal by two Member States, the Bahamas and Greece (C 89/12/1), suggesting that IMO should play a larger role in determining the standards to which new ships are built, traditionally the responsibility of classification societies and shipyards.
The submission argued that the Organization should develop initial ship construction standards that would permit innovative designs but at the same time ensure that ships are constructed in such a manner that, if properly maintained, they could remain safe for their economic life.  The standards would also have to ensure that all parts of a ship could be easily accessed to facilitate proper inspection and ease of maintenance. 
Over the next two years the matter was extensively discussed in the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), the Council and finally the IMO Assembly which, at its twenty-third session in 2003, included the item “Goal-based new ship construction standards” in the strategic plan (A.944(23)) and the long-term work plan (A.943(23)) of the Organization.
Basic principle and methodology
After in-depth discussions in plenary and in the GBS working group during MSC 79 and MSC 80, MSC 80 in May 2005 agreed on in principle the basic principles of IMO goal-based standards as follows:
“IMO goal-based standards are:
.1 broad, over-arching safety, environmental and/or security standards that ships are required to meet during their lifecycle;
.2 the required level to be achieved by the requirements applied by class societies and other recognized organizations, Administrations and IMO;
.3 clear, demonstrable, verifiable, long standing, implementable and achievable, irrespective of ship design and technology; and
.4 specific enough in order not to be open to differing interpretations.”
It is understood that these basic principles were developed to be applicable to all goal-based standards developed by IMO and not only to ship construction standards, in recognition that, in the future, IMO may develop goal-based standards for other safety areas, e.g. machinery, equipment, fire-protection, etc., as well as security and environment protection related areas, and that all goal-based standards developed by the Organization should follow the same basic principles. It was agreed to proceed with the development of GBS using a deterministic approach, while, at the same time, the use of risk-based methodologies was to be further explored over the next few sessions of the Committee.
Following deliberation on the subject, MSC 81 agreed to limit the scope of its consideration initially to bulk carriers and oil tankers and consider expansion to other ship types and areas of safety at a later time. For the GBS for oil tankers and bulk carriers, a five-tier system was agreed, consisting of the following:
• Tier I  - Goals
High-level objectives to be met.
• Tier II - Functional requirements
Criteria to be satisfied in order to conform to the goals.
• Tier III - Verification of conformity
Procedures for verifying that the rules and regulations for ship design and construction conform to the goals and functional requirements.
• Tier IV – Rules and regulations for ship design and construction
Detailed requirements developed by IMO, national Administrations and/or recognized organizations and applied by national Administrations and/or recognized organizations acting on their behalf to the design and construction of a ship in order to conform to the goals and functional requirements.
• Tier V - Industry practices and standards
Industry standards, codes of practice and safety and quality systems for shipbuilding, ship operation, maintenance, training, manning, etc., which may be incorporated into, or referenced in, the rules and regulations for the design and construction of a ship.
Current status
The GBS Tiers I to  III constitute the IMO GBS, which became mandatory on 1 January 2012 under the SOLAS Convention (new SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10), subsequent to the adoption of the following instruments at MSC 87 in May 2010:
• new SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10 “Goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers” (resolution MSC.290(87));
• International goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers (resolution MSC.287(87)) (the Standards); and
• Guidelines for the verification of conformity with goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers (resolution MSC.296(87)) (the Verification Guidelines).
SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10 makes the goal-based standards applicable to oil tankers and bulk carriers of 150 m in length and above,
• for which the building contract is placed on or after 1 July 2016;
• in the absence of a building contract, the keels of which are laid or which are at a similar stage of construction on or after 1 July 2017; or
• the delivery of which is on or after 1 July 2020.
The new SOLAS regulation also requires that a Ship Construction File shall be provided upon delivery of a new ship and kept on board the ship and/or ashore. (see also Guidelines for the information to be included in a Ship Construction File (MSC.1/Circ.1343)).
MSC 89 in May 2011, with a view to providing the process for the development, verification, implementation and monitoring of goal-based standards (GBS) to support regulatory development within IMO, approved the Generic guidelines for developing IMO goal-based standards (MSC.1/Circ.1394).
Verification of conformity
The verification of conformity of ship construction rules of individual recognized organizations and/or national maritime administrations with the GBS will be carried out by international GBS Audit Teams established by IMO’s Secretary-General, in accordance with the verification Guidelines. These Guidelines foresee that recognized organizations and/or national maritime administrations submit requests for verification of their ship construction rules to the Secretary-General who will forward these requests to the Audit Teams to be established for a verification of the submitted information through an independent review.  The final reports of the Teams with relevant recommendations will then be forwarded to the MSC for consideration and approval.
According to the implementation schedule (MSC 87/26/Add.1/Annex 13), the deadline for the receipt of initial verification requests at IMO is 31 December 2013. To facilitate audit preparation, IMO has sent Circ. Letter No.3097 in August 2010, inviting advanced notification of intent to submit a request for a GBS verification audit, and as of June 2012, eight notifications from classification societies have been received.
At the same time, a pool of auditors is being established. In response to Circ. Letter No.3076 of July 2010, inviting the nomination of GBS auditors, 33 nominations had been submitted by Member States and international organizations as of 12 July 2012.
Further work
The Assembly, at its 27the session, included in the Strategic Plan for the Organization (for the six-year period 2012-2017) (resolution A.1037(27)) a relevant strategic direction and in the High-level Action Plan (resolution A.1038(27)) a corresponding high-level action with two planned outputs:
.1 implementation of goal-based new ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers (by MSC); and
.2 development of goal-based ship construction standards for all types of ships, including safety, security and protection of the marine environment (by MSC and MEPC).
For further study of risk-based methodologies, MSC 90 established a GBS correspondence group and instructed it to develop draft guidelines for the approval of equivalents and alternatives as provided for in various IMO instruments, which should be based on the Guidelines on approval of risk-based ship design annexed to document MSC 86/5/3.