Harmonized system of ship survey and certification enters into force

A harmonized system of survey and certification covering international shipping regulations adopted by the International Maritime Organization enters into force on 3 February 2000.

The system covers survey and certification requirements of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, the International Convention on Load Lines, (LL) 1966 and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL 73/78), as well as the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC Code), Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (BCH Code) and Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC Code).

All these instruments require the issuing of certificates to show that requirements have been met and this has to be done by means of a survey which can involve the ship being out of service for several days. The harmonized system will alleviate the problems caused by survey dates and intervals between surveys which do not coincide, so that a ship should no longer have to go into port or repair yard for a survey required by one convention shortly after doing the same thing in connection with another instrument.

 

Harmonized system adopted in 1988

The international requirements introducing the harmonized system of survey and certification for the SOLAS and Load Lines Conventions were adopted by IMO at an International Conference on the Harmonized System of Survey and Certification held in 1988 - which itself had its origins in the 1978 Conference on Tanker Safety and Pollution Prevention which recognized the difficulties caused by the survey and certification requirements of SOLAS, the Load Lines Convention and MARPOL 73/78. The 1978 Conference called upon IMO to develop a harmonized system which would enable the surveys to be carried out at the same time.

The 1988 HSSC Conference adopted Protocols to the SOLAS and Load Lines Conventions to introduce the harmonized system. Both Protocols required explicit acceptance by a specified number of States - 15 States with a combined merchant shipping fleet of not less than 50 percent of world merchant shipping tonnage - for the system to enter into force.

The conditions for entry into force of the 1988 SOLAS and Load Lines Protocols were met on 2 February 1999, when Bahamas deposited instruments of accession to both instruments with IMO. Malta also recently acceded to the 1988 Protocols. The 1988 Load Lines Protocol has 36 States Parties with 58.58 percent of world merchant shipping tonnage. The 1988 SOLAS Protocol has 36 States Parties with 58.10 percent of world merchant shipping tonnage.

In terms of MARPOL 73/78, the Convention allowed for amendments to the certification and survey requirements to be accepted by a procedure known as "tacit acceptance", meaning amendments enter into force on a specified date unless sufficient objections are received. As a result, MARPOL 73/78 was amended on 16 March 1990 to introduce the harmonized system of survey and certification, with the proviso that the amendments enter into force at the same time as the entry into force date of the 1988 SOLAS Protocol and the 1988 Load Lines Protocol.

 

The harmonized system

In practice, many Administrations and classification societies already operate a form of harmonized survey and certification. Moreover, a resolution adopted by the IMO Assembly in 1991, and amended in 1993 (Resolution A.718(17), as modified by resolution A.745(18)), allowed for Governments which had ratified the 1988 SOLAS and Load Lines Protocols to implement the harmonized system ahead of the entry into force date of the protocols.

The harmonized system provides for:

  • a one-year standard interval between surveys, based on initial, annual, intermediate, periodical and renewal surveys as appropriate;

  • a scheme for providing the necessary flexibility for the execution of each survey with the provision that the renewal survey may be completed within three months before the expiry date of the existing certificate with no loss of its period of validity;

  • a maximum period of validity of five years for all certificates for cargo ships;

  • a maximum period of validity of 12 months for the Passenger Ship Safety Certificate;

  • a system for the extension of certificates limited to three months to enable a ship to complete its voyage (or one month for ships engaged on short voyages);

  • when an extension has been granted, the period of validity of the new certificate is to start from the expiry date of the existing certificate before its extension.

The main changes to the SOLAS and Load Lines Conventions are that annual inspections have been made mandatory for cargo ships and unscheduled inspections have been discontinued. Other changes refer to survey intervals and requirements.

 

Tacit acceptance in LL Convention

The 1988 Load Lines Protocol also introduces the "tacit acceptance" amendment procedure into the Load Lines Convention. At present, amendments enter into force after they have been positively accepted by two-thirds of Parties to the Convention, but the procedure has proved to be so slow in practice that none of the amendments adopted to the Convention has ever entered into force.

Under tacit acceptance, amendments enter into force on a date chosen at the time of adoption, unless they are rejected by one-third of Parties or by Parties the combined merchant fleets of which represent 50 percent of gross tonnage of all the world's merchant fleets.

The tacit acceptance procedure will enable changes to the Convention, as modified by the Protocol, to enter into force within a period determined by IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC). This is important because the Convention is currently being revised by IMO. Further changes are also expected to be made affecting bulk carriers as a result of a report published in 1998 on the sinking of the bulk carrier Derbyshire in September 1980 with the loss of more than 40 lives. This was presented to the MSC in May 1998 by the United Kingdom and contains recommendations relating to the design and construction of bulk carriers.

The Sub-Committee on Stability and Load Lines and on Fishing Vessels Safety (SLF) agreed at its 42nd session (8-12 February 1999) to establish a correspondence group to prepare a draft text of new amendments to the 1966 LL Convention, as well as to look at what action may be needed as regards bulk carrier safety and a number of other issues. The Sub-Committee agreed that it has been clearly demonstrated that current LL Convention standards may be inadequate with respect to wave loads and permissible strength of hatch covers for bulk carriers and other ships types.

The correspondence group will prepare a report for submission to the next SLF Sub-Committee session, scheduled for September 2000, for further consideration.

 

Assembly resolution

In November 1999, IMO's 21st Assembly adopted resolution A.883(21) Global and uniform implementation of the harmonized system of survey and certification (HSSC), which is aimed at encouraging all States to implement the harmonized system of survey and certification (HSSC), even if they are not parties to the relevant Protocols, which enter into force on 3 February 2000.

 

Further information

1    Types of ship survey

Initial survey - A complete inspection of all the items relating to the particular certificate before the ship is put into service to ensure they are in a satisfactory condition and fit for the service for which the ship is intended.

Periodical survey - Inspection of the items relating to the particular certificate to ensure that they are in a satisfactory condition and fit for the service for which the ship is intended.

Renewal survey - As per periodical survey but leads to the issue of a new certificate.

Intermediate survey - Inspection of specified items

Annual survey - General inspection of the items relating to the particular certificate to ensure that they have been maintained and remain satisfactory for the service for which the ship is intended.

Additional survey - Inspection, either general or partial according to the circumstances, to be made after a repair resulting from casualty investigations or whenever any important repairs or renewals are made.

 

2    List of certificates required on board ship relating to harmonized system of survey and certification (some depend on type of ship)

  • Passenger Ship Safety Certificate, including Record of Equipment

  • Cargo Ship Safety Construction Certificate

  • Cargo Ship Safety Equipment Certificate, including Record of Equipment

  • Cargo Ship Safety Radio Certificate, including Record of Equipment

  • Cargo Ship Safety Certificate, including Record of Equipment

  • International Load Lines Certificate

  • International Load Lines Exemption Certificate

  • International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate

  • International Pollution Prevention Certificate for the Carriage of Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk

  • International Certificate of Fitness for the Carriage of Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk

  • International Certificate of Fitness for the Carriage of Liquefied Gases in Bulk

  • Certificate of Fitness for the Carriage of Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk