Maritime Safety Committee, 75th session: 15-24 May 2002


The MSC continued the detailed preparatory work for the diplomatic conference on maritime security. Among a raft of items designed to address maritime security issues, the most far-reaching is a proposed International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code), which would be implemented through SOLAS chapter XI.  For more details, please see IMO Briefing 19/ 2002.


The Committee considered the work of a number of Sub-Committees that had been tasked with considering various topics relating to bulk carrier safety, as well as submissions by Governments and international organizations on matters arising from the reports concerning the sinking of the bulk carrier Derbyshire and on the various formal safety assessment (FSA) studies on bulk carrier safety which are now completed or nearing completion.

New proposed draft SOLAS regulations on bulk carriers agreed

The Committee approved the text of draft proposed new SOLAS regulations XII/12 and 13, for adoption at MSC 76 in December 2002.

The proposed new regulation 12 requires the fitting of high level alarms and level monitoring systems on all bulk carriers, in order to detect abnormal water ingress in holds, ballast and dry spaces. The recommendation for the fitting of such alarms was highlighted during the meeting of the Working Group on Bulk Carrier Safety held during the MSC’s 74th session in December 2001.

The proposed new regulation 13 on 'Availability of pumping systems' would require the means for draining and pumping dry space bilges and tanks located forward of a collision bulkhead to be capable of being brought into operation from a readily accessible enclosed space.

The date of application of these regulations needed to be further addressed at MSC 76 when adopting the new regulations into SOLAS chapter XII on Additional safety measures for bulk carriers.  The two proposed draft new regulations stem from the review of reports into the sinking of the bulk carrier Derbyshire.

Hatch cover design environmental load criteria

The MSC endorsed a proposal from the United Kingdom, reporting on results to date of the model tests initiated following the Re-opened Formal Investigation into the loss of the Derbyshire, to update the hatch cover design environmental load criteria in the current revision of the 1988 Load Line Protocol. The MSC referred the matter to the Sub-Committee on Stability and Load Lines and on Fishing Vessels' Safety for appropriate action, taking into account in particular the findings of the report concerning horizontal loads.

Bulk carrier casualties

The Committee noted figures on bulk carrier casualties provided by the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (INTERCARGO) [1] , which indicate that four bulk carriers over 10,000 dwt and 64 lives were lost during 2001 making the new totals for the previous ten years, 116 ships and 618 lives lost. The Committee observed that more needed to be done to halt the accidents involving bulk carriers and the loss of seafarers who work on them.

FSA studies on bulk carrier safety:

Based on the results of FSA studies on bulk carrier safety to date, the MSC approved a preliminary list of 25 recommendations for decision-making, some concerning new ships (i.e., ships to be constructed on or after the date of entry into force of the requirements that will be developed on the basis of the recommendations), some concerning existing ships, and some which would affect both new and existing ships. 

The recommendations for decision‑making include those issues which merit further consideration and the results of a cost-effectiveness assessment emanating from an international collaborative FSA study.  The items for consideration have been grouped under a number of headings:

Hull envelope
Includes issues such as double hull and side-skin construction, improved coatings, steel repair standards, corrosion margins of hold frames, forecastles, bulwark/breakwater structures, ballast system capacity, protection of foredeck fittings, strength and corrosion control of hold frames, coating of internal side skins.

Closing appliances
Includes hatch cover re-design and/or reinforcement, fore deck fittings, hatch cover access/closed indicators.

Includes water ingress alarms, provision of immersion suits, lifeboats.

Includes terminal interface improvement, risk based ESP (Enhanced Survey Programme) targeting, PSC (Port State Control) training, weather routeing, improved loading/stability information, making the BC Code mandatory and incorporating a Bulk Carrier Endorsement for officers’ qualifications, early implementation of SOLAS Chapter XII.

The list is the first attempt of the working group at analyzing the results of all the FSA studies on bulk carrier safety.  The 25 preliminary recommendations identified will be considered again at MSC 76 in December 2002 with a view to drawing up a definitive list of recommendations for decision-making which will then be referred to the appropriate sub-committees for preparing the necessary regulatory action.


The Working Group on Large Passenger Ship Safety reviewed ongoing work by various Sub-Committees and agreed a revised and updated work plan which includes strategic goals and objectives and specific areas for consideration.

The Group and the Committee reaffirmed the guiding philosophy for dealing with large passenger ship safety issues, in particular, among other principles, that:

1. the regulatory framework should place more emphasis on the prevention of a casualty from occurring in the first place;
2. future large passenger ships should be designed for improved survivability so that, in the event of a casualty, persons can stay safely on board as the ship proceeds to port;
3. efforts that affect existing large passenger ships would continue to focus primarily on matters related to the human element such as operations, management and training, taking into account that this would not preclude consideration of equipment and arrangements issues for such ships if deemed appropriate; and
4. the regulatory framework should not discourage alternative designs and arrangements in lieu of the prescriptive regulations provided that at least an equivalent level of safety is achieved.

The safety of large passenger ships was first raised in IMO during the 72nd meeting of the MSC in May 2000, as a result of a personal initiative by Secretary-General William O’Neil. The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) then agreed to undertake a global consideration of safety issues pertaining to these ships and a Working Group on Large Passenger Ship Safety began work at the next session of the Committee (MSC 73, in November-December 2000), to review the current safety regime as it relates to large passenger ships.

The Working Group discussed the need to develop working criteria for the term “large passenger ships” but agreed that the parameters would vary according to the measures and regulations being discussed. The Committee agreed that the expert Sub-Committees should develop relevant parameters, if necessary, for application purposes for any proposed recommendations.  Such parameters may include, but are not limited to, the ship length, tonnage, number of persons, design parameters, etc.


List of Confirmed Parties updated

The MSC agreed to add four new Parties to the list of Parties deemed to be giving full and complete effect to the provisions of the revised Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) 1978, as amended.

The revised list was agreed following the submission of the report by IMO Secretary-General William O’Neil on those countries whose evaluations have been completed since the previous MSC meeting, which was an extraordinary session held in November 2001 alongside the IMO Assembly’s 22nd session.

Click here for updated List of Confirmed Parties (MSC/Circ.1031).

End of STCW “grace period”

The Committee urged all concerned to make every effort to ensure that serving seafarers hold certificates and documentary evidence meeting the revised Convention requirements in order to avoid major problems during port State control inspections after 31 July 2002.

The end of the transition period for implementation of the 1995 STCW amendments came into effect on 1 February 2002. However, as not all seafarers on board ships had been able to obtain STCW 95 certificates and endorsements before the deadline, the Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping, which met in January 2002, had issued a circular which recommended that, until 31 July 2002, port State control officers issue only a warning in cases where a seafarer’s documentation complied with the requirements immediately before 1 February 2002 but was not in accordance with the requirements of STCW 95.  Port State control officers were recommended to issue the warnings to the shipping companies concerned only and to notify the seafarers and inform the flag State accordingly.

References to STCW  - circular agreed

The MSC agreed an MSC Circular on Guidance for port State control officers on references to STCW 95 in certificates, endorsements and documentary evidence, which is intended to clarify how the revised STCW Convention should be referred to. While some people have been using the acronym “STCW 95” to refer to the major revision of the Convention adopted in 1995, there have been other amendments since.

Therefore, the appropriate way to refer to the Convention is “STCW, 1978, as amended”.

The Circular recommends that port State control officers accept valid and authentic certificates and endorsements which include in their title that the certificate or endorsement has been issued either:

1. “under the provisions of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended in 1995”, as provided in section A-I/2 of the STCW Code; or
2. “under the provisions of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended”, which takes account of all the amendments made to the Convention subsequently.


The MSC noted that the number of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships which had occurred in 2001, as reported to the Organization, was 370, a decrease of 101 by number and 21 per cent over the figure for 2000. The total number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships, reported to have occurred from 1984 to the end of April 2002, was 2,650.  The MSC observed that, although this latest reduction was a welcome development, more needed to be done to reduce this menace.

The areas most affected in 2001 (i.e. five or more incidents reported) were the Far East, in particular the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait, the Indian Ocean, West Africa, South America and the Caribbean and East Africa.

Comparing the figures for 2000 with 2001, the number of incidents reported to have occurred or to have been attempted increased from 33 to 58 in West Africa, remained at two in the Mediterranean Sea and decreased from 112 to 58 in the Malacca Strait, from 140 to 120 in the South China Sea, from 109 to 86 in the Indian Ocean, from 29 to 22 in East Africa and from 41 to 23 in South America and the Caribbean.

Most of the attacks worldwide were reported to have occurred in the territorial waters of the coastal States concerned while the ships were at anchor or berthed.  The MSC was particularly concerned that, during 2001, 17 crew members had been killed, 42 wounded and five more reported missing. Sixteen ships were hijacked, two ships went missing and one ship had been lost, while on four occasions, the attackers had used explosive devices.

The MSC once again urged all Governments (of flag, port and coastal States) and the industry to intensify their efforts to eradicate these unlawful acts, noting the maritime community could no longer tolerate the situation and the serious repercussions it had on the safety of passengers and crews.

Implementation of anti-piracy project

The MSC reviewed the report of the second assessment mission and regional meeting on piracy and armed robbery against ships for Latin American and Caribbean countries (held in Guayaquil, Ecuador - 25 and 26 September 2001) and an oral report on the third and last assessment mission and regional meeting for selected West African countries (Accra, Ghana, 25 and 26 March 2002).

The MSC noted and concurred with the recommendations and conclusions of both meetings, including:

- the Guayaquil meeting’s agreement on the need for the review of the relevant IMO instruments on the prevention and suppression of acts of terrorism against ships, their passengers and crews  - with action already being undertaken by the Legal Committee within the context of resolution A.924(22);
- the Guayaquil meeting’s agreement on the need for the Secretariat to communicate with the relevant industry organizations to urge their members to instruct ship masters to ensure that all attacks or attempts thereof are reported promptly to the nearest RCC, the designated focal point of the coastal State concerned and the flag State concerned (in accordance with the procedure set out in MSC/Circ.622/Rev.1.)
- the Accra meeting’s recommendation that  participating Governments identify, on the basis of experience and statistical information, vulnerable areas off their coasts and in their ports, directing their resources to cope with the increased risks to safe navigation and environmental protection in such areas, and providing specific advice for ships on protective measures and local reporting procedures.
- the Accra meeting’s agreement that IMO be requested to assist the countries in the sub-region with regard to the implementation of, and amendments to, IMO instruments related to the prevention and suppression of acts of terrorism against shipping; that the international maritime community and industry, through IMO, be requested to assist the countries in the sub-region for capacity and infrastructure building on security issues; and that  the Maritime Organization for West and Central Africa (MOWCA) be associated to the fullest possible extent in the process.
- the Accra Meeting had encouraged participating countries to take appropriate action to ensure co-operation and co-ordination of different national administrations in their overall tactical response to piracy and armed robbery attacks and, in particular, to take account of any related unlawful activities, such as illicit drug trafficking, illegal migration, stowing away, etc.;
- the Accra Meeting had agreed to make use of all possible means to develop a sustainable sub-regional approach to the problem of violence at sea, taking into account the existence of MOWCA, as the main sub-regional organization, as well as the Abuja MoU on Port State Control and the recent initiative aiming at the creation of Coastal Patrol Guards to cover the area from Angola to Senegal;
- the Accra meeting had also agreed to invite MOWCA to undertake, in co-operation with IMO, consultations with Governments in the sub-region for the purpose of convening, at an appropriate time, a meeting to consider widening the scope of the sub-regional strategy on maritime security to cover co-operation and co-ordination on the prevention and suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships;
- the Accra meeting had suggested that, similar to the role of IMO regarding the development of regional agreements on port State control, IMO should initiate a process leading to the adoption of sub-regional agreements on security matters and the creation of sub‑regional systems dealing with maritime security issues;
- the Accra meeting had recognized that, in many ports in the sub-region, wrecks were used by pirates and armed robbers as bases for their illegal activities.  The Meeting, therefore, recommended that IMO should assist coastal States in the removal of such wrecks in the sub-region; and
- the Accra meeting had identified the need for an increased policing of the registration and identification of small boats, since they are frequently used in the context of piracy and armed robbery attacks against ships.

Regional agreements on co-operation against piracy and armed robbery against ships

The MSC was also updated on meetings in South-East Asia, following the March 2001 regional meeting in Singapore after which countries had been invited by the IMO Secretary-General to participate in a regional meeting to consider concluding a regional agreement on co-operation against piracy and armed robbery against ships.

Although so far only two countries (out of the ten which had participated at that Meeting) had responded positively to the Secretary-General’s invitation, there had been three relevant meetings.

An EU-ASEAN Experts meeting on maritime security (held Manila, 25 and 26 February 2002), was hosted by the Government of the Philippines.

A meeting in Jakarta (5 to 7 March 2002) was held to facilitate and strengthen further co-operation in the field of anti‑piracy activities, including follow-up activities to the Regional Conference and Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships held in Tokyo in April 2000 and some progress was made towards concluding a regional agreement.

A meeting in Tokyo (12 and 13 March 2002) considered regional co‑operation issues among maritime policy authorities and private maritime-related concerns, and the meeting agreed that  it was necessary to:

- continue efforts to establish and maintain international co-operation;
- improve the flow of information on piracy;
- initiate appropriate national response measures on the basis of the current trend of piracy acts; and
- enhance maritime security to suppress piracy.

The MSC urged Member Governments to give more urgent consideration towards promoting and concluding viable regional agreements to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships, given that the issue was progressing rather slowly. The MSC also instructed the IMO Secretariat to follow-up the proposals, involving ROCRAM and MOWCA, towards convening regional meetings to promote the case of regional co-operation in appropriate areas.

The MSC noted that the second phase of the anti-piracy project was now complete and it was the intention of the Secretariat to make every effort to provide technical assistance and co-ordinate missions to countries which were expected to request assistance.

The MSC also invited the Secretariat to follow closely the developments at United Nations level, in particular the “open-ended” Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS) which is considering, inter alia, the issue of maritime piracy with the prospect of drafting appropriate text for submission to the General Assembly for consideration and action.


The Committee reviewed issues relating to the rescue of persons at sea, following the adoption by the IMO Assembly in November 2001 of resolution A.920(22) - Review of safety measures and procedures for the treatment of persons rescued at sea, including preliminary work by the Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR)  - 6th session:  18-22 February 2002. The resolution requested the Maritime Safety Committee, the Legal Committee and the Facilitation Committee, under the direction of the Council, to review, on a priority basis, all relevant IMO instruments under their scope for the purpose of identifying any existing gaps, inconsistencies, ambiguities, vagueness or other inadequacies in relation to the rescue of persons at sea.

The Committee noted that the Secretary-General had brought the issue of persons rescued at sea to the attention of a number of competent United Nations specialized agencies and programmes pointing out the need for a co-ordinated approach to all attendant aspects at the United Nations inter-agency level.  The Secretary-General had also proposed the establishment of a co-ordinating mechanism (possibly in the form of an inter-agency co-ordinating panel to be activated when the circumstances so dictate) to ensure that the response of the United Nations in any future emergency could be co‑ordinated in a consistent manner.  As a result, a meeting was being organized between representatives of the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the IMO Secretariat, to take place at the UNHCR Headquarters on 2 and 3 July 2002 to consider and agree on how to take their task forward. 

The MSC discussed the issue extensively and agreed on further work as follows:

- to continue the review of the provisions of the SOLAS and SAR Conventions regarding the treatment of persons rescued at sea, based on the requests of resolution A.920(22). The review should be given high priority and should be completed at COMSAR 8. The results to be reported to the Committee should, if appropriate, include specific proposals for amendments to these Conventions;
- to consider whether additional guidance should be developed for masters, RCCs, coastal States and other interested parties to ensure that persons rescued at sea are delivered to a place of safety;
- to identify other issues raised during its debate and include them in the report to MSC 77 as issues that the Organization should forward to other international organizations that have responsibilities related to this issue; 
- to also consider the possible need for, or desirability of, effecting amendments to the FAL and SALVAGE Conventions regarding provisions relating to persons rescued at sea or in distress at sea.  This task, which would involve the FAL and LEG Committees respectively, should be given lower priority than the review of the SOLAS and SAR Conventions.


The MSC considered issues relating to the human element, including the report of the Working Group on the Human Element which met during the session.

The MSC identified a need for updating the instructions to Sub-Committees relating to the human element taking into account the experience gained since the original instructions were issued at MSC 69 in 1998.  The MSC instructed all Sub-Committees to continue to take into consideration appropriate human element related matters in the course of their work, particularly when:


reviewing the adequacy of requirements and recommendations for equipment [2] and operating manuals on board ships, including the simplification and standardization of terminology.  In this respect, when developing new or amending existing performance standards, careful consideration should be given to, including recommendations on:
-         user-friendliness
-         safety of use of the equipment
-         harmonization of essential safety features of the equipment
-         the need for clear, easily understandable and updated operating and technical manuals and drawings;

2. reviewing the adequacy of requirements and recommendations for operational guidelines on board ships, in particular with respect to them being easily understandable;
3. continuing the simplification and standardization of symbols and signs used on board ships; and
4. identifying words and phrases used in IMO instruments such as “adequate”, “sufficient”, “to the satisfaction of the Administration”, etc. and determine the extent to which they can be more specifically defined.

The MSC noted the Working Group’s development of a draft proposed Assembly resolution on Promoting a Maritime Safety Culture, to be discussed further by the Marine Environment Protection Committee and to be finalized at MSC 77 in spring 2003, for submission to the next Assembly in November 2003. The proposed draft resolution would update and replace resolution A.792(19) on Safety culture in and around passenger ships and would include all types of ships.

Fatigue – need for education and training agreed

The MSC agreed on the need to develop education and training that provides seafarers, shipowners and operators, ship designers, maritime pilots and other relevant parties with proven methods to implement ways of addressing fatigue.  The MSC also agreed that training is an indispensable step in order to create awareness and a change in safety culture.

The MSC therefore instructed the Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW) to consider mandatory education and training requirements in this respect for all relevant parties and all types of ships, as appropriate, taking into account MSC/Circ.1014 which includes IMO Guidelines on Fatigue.


The MSC approved, in principle, the proposed general framework concerning future work on places of refuge developed by the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation. Future work places high priority on the safety of all involved in any operation concerning the provision of places of refuge, with due attention to all environmental aspects associated with these operations. This will include the preparation of guidelines for:

1. actions a master of a ship should take when in need of a place of refuge (including actions on board and actions required in seeking assistance from other ships in the vicinity, salvage operators, flag State and coastal States).
2. the evaluation of risks, including the methodology involved, associated with the provision of places of refuge and relevant operations in both a general and a case by case basis; and
3. actions expected of coastal States for the identification, designation and provision of such suitable places together with any relevant facilities.

The Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation will co-ordinate the work, while input should also come from the Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications, Search and Rescue (COMSAR) and the Marine Environment protection Committee (MEPC).


The Committee heard reports on a number of follow-up actions that had been taken following the IMO/Industry Meeting on multiple inspections held at IMO Headquarters on 9 February 2000. The Meeting had made a number of recommendations concerning flag State Administrations, port State control (PSC) authorities and industry partners as well as class and IACS.

  • The Secretary-General had communicated with Regional PSC MoUs/Agreements to convey the Meeting’s conclusions and recommendations and had sought information from those MoUs/Agreements and IACS on their assessment of the impact of the ISM Code since its first implementation phase and its effectiveness on ships on which it had applied. 
  • The Secretary-General had communicated with industry representative organizations and IACS, and requested information on any action they had taken in respect of, and any progress made in, the implementation of the Meeting’s recommendations
  • A project financed by the Technical Co-operation Fund is providing for the IMO Secretariat to attend regional PSC MoUs and Agreement Committee meetings, to both gather information on the implementation of PSC systems in the various regions and also provide advice on the harmonization of PSC procedures. The project also provides funding for regular workshops for regional port State control MoU and Agreement Secretaries and Directors of Information Centres, to discuss common problems and experiences, assist in the harmonization and co-ordination of PSC practices and identify any technical assistance required. The first in the series of such workshops was held from 7 to 9 June 2000 while the second is scheduled to take place at the Organization’s Headquarters from 3 to 5 July 2002.

Implementation and effectiveness of the ISM code

The Committee noted that studies had shown that the implementation of the ISM Code has already had a positive effect on safety.  In fact, companies which have safety management systems in place have reported a reduction in casualties and spills, as well as a downward trend in detention rates while companies which have fully embraced the ISM Code have a better approach to safety management.

In this context, the Committee recalled MSC/Circ.1020 - MEPC/Circ. 387, dated 3 January 2002, reminding of the impending “phase 2” implementation date (1 July 2002) of the ISM Code and the action Governments and the industry should take in this regard.

The Committee took the view that it should be expected that the implementation of the second phase of the ISM Code, which covers the balance of the world merchant fleet, and a subsequent analysis to assess the impact of the Code on the safety of ships should provide a clear indication of the size of the Code’s contribution to the enhancement of safety and quality of shipping.  To this end, the Secretariat was instructed to collect information from regional PSC MoUs/Agreements, IACS and industry organizations on the impact of the ISM Code on the ISM Code-certificated ships vis-à-vis detentions, serious deficiencies, casualties, etc. as well as their assessment of the impact of the Code and its effectiveness on ships to which it applies and to report the summary of such information and assessment to MSC 80.

Implementation by industry of the Meeting’s recommendations

Responses to the Meeting’s recommendation that greater co-operation should be established between charterers/shippers in the mutual recognition of inspection records had indicated that it was commercial inspections that could most readily be reduced in number.  It was generally acknowledged that the main reason for commercial inspections had been the lack of confidence in the inspections carried out by other industry partners which drives interested parties, such as insurers, shippers and charterers, to take steps to assure themselves as to the actual standards of ships they insure and use. 

Following the Meeting, industry partners had recognized that steps could be taken to reduce the number of inspections.  In this respect, INTERTANKO had indicated that the total number of inspections could be reduced to an average of nine per annum.  Moreover, the possibility of introducing a single common annual inspection has been recognized by charterers involved in the exercise.

The Committee encouraged industry organizations to co-operate closely, possibly through the establishment of an inter-industry group on this matter to identify possible areas of acceptance of the results of statutory and other inspections (thus eliminating duplication of work and the need for similar inspections by other industry partners) and to develop recommendations for the industry partners to implement so that the number of inspections might be reduced.

Port State control systems

The Committee noted that the information provided by the regional PSC MoUs/Agreements, in response to the recommendations of the Meeting, had indicated that some MoUs/Agreements had already undertaken certain initiatives to address the problems associated with multiple inspections, such as:

1. avoiding inspections of ships which had been inspected by other members of the same MoU within a certain period of time unless there were clear grounds for new inspections;
2. establishing inter-regional data exchange with other MoUs and allowing direct access to the respective PSC database;
3. harmonizing PSC procedures; and
4. actively participating in the Equasis Information System, etc.

In this regard, the Committee invited the second Workshop of regional PSC MoU/Agreement Secretaries and Directors of Information Centres to exchange experiences and work on ways to address further the industry’s concerns over the number of inspections.

In noting information provided by OCIMF regarding the apparently limited use of SIRE by port State control inspectorates, the Committee recommended that the accessibility and potential benefits for port State control activities of the safety data on ships from the SIRE website should be brought to the attention of the second workshop for regional port State control MoU and Agreement Secretaries and Directors of Information Centres, to be held in July 2002.


The Committee agreed that the amendments to SOLAS, the 1988 SOLAS Protocol and the mandatory guidelines proposed for adoption at the current session should be deemed to have been accepted on 1 July 2003 with the expected entry into force set for 1 January 2004:

Amendments to SOLAS

The expanded Committee adopted the following amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, as amended.

Making the IMDG Code mandatory - the amendments to SOLAS VII (Carriage of Dangerous Goods) make the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code) mandatory. The MSC also adopted the IMDG Code in a mandatory form.

However, as the MSC has agreed, the provisions of the following parts of the Code will remain recommendatory:

  • chapter 1.3 (Training);
  • chapter 2.1 (Explosives, Introductory Notes 1 to 4 only);
  • chapter 2.3, section 2.3.3 (Determination of flashpoint only);
  • chapter 3.2 (columns 15 and 17 of the Dangerous Goods List only);
  • chapter 3.5 (Transport schedule for Class 7 radioactive material only),
  • chapter 5.4, section 5.4.5 (Multimodal dangerous goods form), insofar as layout of the form is concerned;
  • chapter 7.3 (Special requirements in the event of an incident and fire precautions involving dangerous goods only).

In practice, this means that from the legal point of view, the whole of the IMDG Code is made mandatory, but provisions of recommendatory nature are editorially expressed in the Code (e.g. using the word “should” instead of “shall”) to clarify their status.

The mandatory IMDG Code incorporates certain changes relating to specific products, as well as relevant elements of the amendments to the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, Model Regulations adopted by the UN Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods at its twenty-first session in Geneva from 4 to 13 December 2000. 

The mandatory IMDG Code will take effect on 1 January 2004, but the MSC agreed that Contracting Governments to SOLAS may apply the IMDG Code in whole or in part on a voluntary basis as from 1 January 2003.

Updates to Chapter IV - Radiocommunications – The amendments to this chapter relate to changes following the full implementation of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) on 1 February 1999, which renders some of the provisions relating to implementation dates in the current chapter IV superfluous.

The amendments also state that a listening watch on VHF Channel 16 for distress and safety purposes should   continue until 2005.

 Carriage requirement for IAMSAR ManualThe amendment to Chapter V – Safety of Navigation, requires ships to carry an up-to-date copy of Volume III of the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual.

The MSC also adopted amendments to the 1988 Protocol to SOLAS, 1974, relating to updates to the Record of Equipment for the Passenger Ship Safety Certificate (Form P); Record of Equipment for the Cargo Ship Safety Radio Certificate (Form R); Record of Equipment for the Cargo Ship Safety Certificate (Form C).

Adoption of amendments to enhanced survey programme

The MSC adopted amendments to resolution A.744(18) – Guidelines on the enhanced programme of inspections during surveys of bulk carriers and oil tankers. The entry into force of the amendments is set for 1 January 2004.

The first set of amendments relates to surveys of bulk carriers and is intended to improve the survey procedures, in particular looking at repairs to bulk carriers and at the condition of the foremost holds. The amendments add new annexes 11 and 12:

Annex 11 Guidelines for the gauging of the vertically corrugated transverse watertight bulkhead between holds Nos.1 and 2
Annex 12 Additional annual survey requirements for the foremost cargo hold of ships subject to SOLAS regulation XII/9.1

The second set of amendments relates to surveys of oil tankers and includes revisions of sections relating to repairs on oil tankers and to the intermediate enhanced survey. The amendments were proposed following proposals made after the Erika incident of December 1999 and consideration of issues relating to measures to improve the safety of oil tankers.

Access to spaces in cargo areas of oil tankers and bulk carriers – adoption of revised regulation deferred

The MSC agreed to defer consideration and adoption of the proposed draft revised regulation II-1/12-24 in SOLAS chapter II-1 (Construction – Structure, sub-division and stability, machinery and electrical installations) and draft technical provisions for means of access for inspection to its next session in December. The draft revised regulation is intended to ensure that ships can be properly inspected throughout their lifespan, by designing and building the ship to provide suitable means for access. Without adequate access, the structural condition of the ship can deteriorate undetected and major structural failure can arise. The MSC agreed that more time was needed to study the details of the proposed draft regulation and technical provisons.


The MSC adopted the following new and amended ships’ routeing measures which were agreed by the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation at its 47th session in July 2001. The new and amended measures will enter into force as stated below:

New Traffic Separation Schemes (TSSs)

  • Establishment of new traffic separation schemes “Off the Mediterranean coast of Egypt”. Will enter into force at 0000 hours UTC on 1 December 2002.

Amendments to existing Traffic Separation Schemes (TSSs)

  • Amendments to the existing traffic separation scheme (TSS) in the Gulf of Finland which is located in the territorial waters of the Russian Federation (adopted by resolution A.284(VIII) on 20 November 1973) and the establishment of a new deep-water route in connection with the coming into operation of the new oil port of Primorsk, as proposed by the Russian Federation - implemented by the Russian Federation on 1 November 2001.
  • Amendments to the traffic separation scheme (TSS) "South of Gedser", proposed by Denmark and Germany - implemented by Denmark and Germany on 6 January 2002 (SN/Circ.218 of 18 July 2001).
  • Amendments to the existing traffic separation schemes (TSS) "Off Ushant", including associated routeing measures, proposed by France – to be implemented by France at 0000 hours UTC on 1 May 2003.
  • Amendments to the existing traffic separation scheme “In the Approaches to Los Angeles – Long Beach”, proposed by United States. Will enter into force at 0000 hours UTC on 1 December 2002.
  • Amendments to the existing traffic separation schemes (TSSs) “In the Strait of Juan De Fuca and Its Approaches, “In Puget Sound and Its Approaches”, and to add TSSs and other routeing measures  “In Haro Strait, Boundary Pass, and in the Strait of Georgia”, proposed by United States and Canada.  Will enter into force at 0000 hours UTC on 1 December 2002.

Routeing measures other than TSSs

  • Establishment of three mandatory no anchoring areas in the Tortugas Ecological Reserve and the Tortugas Bank in the Florida Keys, proposed by the United States. Will enter into force at 0000 hours UTC on 1 December 2002. The area Around Florida Keys has been designated a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA).
  • Amendment of the northernmost Area to be Avoided (ATBA) off the Florida Coast, proposed by the United States. Will enter into force at 0000 hours UTC on 1 December 2002. The area Around Florida Keys has been designated a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA).
  • Amendment to the Area to be Avoided (ATBA) “Off the Washington Coast” to increase its size and extend its applicability to commercial ships of 1,600 gross tonnage and above, proposed by the United States. Will enter into force at 0000 hours UTC on 1 December 2002.
  • New routeing measures for an Area to be Avoided around Malpelo Island. Proposed by Colombia. This forms part of the designation of the area around Malpelo Island as a a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA). Will enter into force at 0000 hours UTC on 1 December 2002.
  • A new recommended two-way route in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, proposed by the United States. Will enter into force at 0000 hours UTC on 1 December 2002.
  • New “precautionary area” around the Terra Nova Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel located on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, proposed by Canada.  Will enter into force at 0000 hours UTC on 1 December 2002.
  • Amendments to the notes in the description of the two existing Areas to be Avoided (ATBAs) in the region of the Shetland Islands, proposed by the United Kingdom. The new wording extends the application of the area to be avoided to tankers in ballast, stating ”… all vessels over 5,000 gross tonnage, carrying, or capable of carrying oil or other hazardous cargoes in bulk should avoid the area….” Will enter into force at 0000 hours UTC on 1 December 2002.
  • Establishment of a mandatory ship reporting system in Greenland Waters in accordance with the provisions of SOLAS regulation V/8-1, proposed by Denmark – to be implemented at 0000 hours UTC on 1 December 2002.
  • Amendment to the existing mandatory ship reporting system "Off Ushant", proposed by France – to be implemented by France at 0000 hours UTC on 1 May 2003.


The MSC adopted the following:

  • MSC resolution MSC.131(75) on Maintenance of a continuous listening watch on VHF channel 16 by SOLAS ships whilst at sea and installation of VHF DSC facilities on non-SOLAS ships. The resolution requires vessels to maintain a continuous listening watch on Channel 16 until the MSC determines the watch should cease, with the provision for a reassessment of the situation in 2005. The resolution revokes Resolution MSC.77(69) adopted in 1998, which called for the watch to cease in 2005.
  • MSC Resolution MSC.128(75) on Adoption of Performance standards for a Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System (BNWAS).
  • MSC Resolution MSC.130(75) on Performance standards for Inmarsat ship earth stations capable of two-way communications, containing performance standards for Inmarsat Fleet F 77 ship earth stations meeting the relevant requirements of resolution A.888(21) on Criteria for the provision of mobile-satellite communication systems in the GMDSS.
  • MSC Resolution MSC.132(75) on Amendments to the Guidelines on emergency towing arrangements for tankers (resolution MSC.35(63)).
  • MSC Resolution MSC.129(75) on Maritime safety and safety-related radiocommunications which is intended to iron out the discrepancy in the SOLAS Convention and the Radio Regulations regarding definitions of different categories on radiocommunications


The MSC approved the following, for submission to the twenty-third session of the Assembly in November 2003 for adoption:

  • Draft revised resolution on the World-wide radionavigation system. The proposed revision includes changes to the Appendix, introducing up-dates to the operational requirements for radionavigation systems for ocean, coastal and harbour approach and entrance phases of a ship’s voyage. (To revise resolution A.815(19).)
  • Draft Assembly resolution on Recommendations on training and certification and operational procedures for maritime pilots other than deep-sea pilots. The draft Assembly resolution is a result of work on the revision of resolution A.485(XII) on the training and certification of maritime pilots.
  • Proposed draft Assembly resolution on Improved Guidelines for marine portable fire extinguishers.
  • Draft revised Assembly resolution on Proper use of VHF channels at sea (subject to any comments/amendments provided by the NAV and/or STW Sub-Committees)


The MSC approved the following for circulation:

  • Proposed draft amendments to the 2000 HSC Code relating to paragraphs 2.2.1 and of chapter 2 on buoyancy, stability and subdivision. The draft amendments relate to the integrity of boundaries, openings and penetrations of buoyant spaces which may be subjected to increased fluid pressure after damage. The proposed amendments were developed based on the lessons learned from the accident with the high speed craft Sleipner in November 1999, off the coast of Norway. The proposed draft amendments are being circulated with a view to adoption at MSC 79 in December 2004, in time to enter into force with the next set of SOLAS amendments in 2006.
  • Proposed draft amendments to SOLAS regulation II-1/18 regarding initial tests of watertight doors in passenger and cargo ships. The proposed draft amendments are being circulated with a view to adoption at MSC 79 in December 2004, in time to enter into force with the next set of SOLAS amendments in 2006.
  • Proposed draft amendments to SOLAS regulation III/26 concerning carriage requirements for search and rescue transponders (SARTs) on liferafts of ro‑ro passenger ships The proposed draft amendments are being circulated with a view to adoption at MSC 76.


The MSC approved the following circulars:

MSC circulars

MSC/Circ.1024 Guidelines on voyage data recorder (VDR) ownership and recovery
MSC/Circ.1025 Revised response procedures for ships carrying dangerous goods (EmS Guide)
MSC/Circ.1026        Amendments to the Code of Safe Practice for Cargo Stowage and Securing (CSS Code)
MSC/Circ.1027 Carriage of dangerous goods – Document of Compliance
MSC/Circ.1028    Application of the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 and the 1988 Protocol relating thereto to high-speed craft
MSC/Circ.1029  Interim Guidelines for the conduct of high-speed craft model tests
MSC/Circ.1030 Guidance for port State control officers on issues related to certificates of competency
MSC/Circ.1031   Parties to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as amended, confirmed by the Maritime Safety Committee to have communicated information which demonstrates that full and complete effect is given to the relevant provisions of the Convention
MSC/Circ.1032    Guidance for port State control officers on references to STCW 95 in certificates, endorsements and documentary evidence
MSC/Circ.1033    Interim Guidelines for evacuation analysis for new and existing passenger ships
MSC/Circ.1034  Guidelines for smoke control and ventilation systems for internal assembly stations and atriums on new passenger ships
MSC/Circ.1035     Guidelines for the use and installation of detectors equivalent to smoke detectors
MSC/Circ.1036    Unified interpretations of the International Code for Application of Fire Test Procedures (FTP Code) and fire test procedures referred to in the Code
MSC/Circ.1037 Unified interpretation of the revised SOLAS chapter II-2
MSC/Circ.1038 Guidelines for general radiocommunications
MSC/Circ.1039  Guidelines for shore-based maintenance of satellite EPIRBs
MSC/Circ.1040 Guidelines on annual testing of 406 MHz satellite EPIRBs
MSC/Circ.1041 Guidelines for ship operators and search and rescue (SAR) services on minimum requirements for SAR data providers holding SAR co-operation plans in accordance with SOLAS regulation V/7.3 and MSC/Circ.1000, and the provision of up-to-date plans at all times
MSC/Circ.1042  List of contents of the Emergency medical kit/bag and medical consideration for use on ro-ro passenger ships not normally carrying a medical doctor
MSC/Circ.1043 Guidance on ships’ daily reporting of their positions to their companies
MSC/Circ.1044  Amendments to the IAMSAR Manual
MSC/Circ.1045 Guidelines for maintenance and monitoring of on-board material containing asbestos
MSC/Circ.1046 Guidelines for the assessment of thermal protection
MSC/Circ.1047    Guidelines for monthly inspection of immersion suits and anti-exposure suits by ships’ crews
MSC/Circ.1048   Performance standards and performance tests for manually powered reverse osmosis desalinators
MSC/Circ.1049  Accidents with lifeboats
MSC/Circ.1050 Shipboard plans for fire protection appliances, life-saving appliances and means of escape
MSC/Circ.1051   Interim application of paragraphs, and 15.7 of the Survey Guidelines under the Harmonization System of Survey and Certification (resolution A.746(18))

Other circulars

COLREG.2/Circ.51 New and amended traffic separation schemes and associated routeing measures
SN/Circ.220 Routeing measures other than traffic separation schemes
SN/Circ.221  Mandatory ship reporting system
CSC/Circ.123    Material characteristics of CSC safety approval plates
CSC/Circ.124  Amendments to the Recommendations on harmonized interpretation and implementation of CSC Convention (CSC/Circ.100)
STCW.7/Circ.13 Issues to be considered when integrating computer-based technologies into training and assessment of seafarers
COMSAR/Circ.29   Guidance for the voluntary use of standardized questionnaire and formats for reporting false alerts in collecting data on false alerts


IMO is the United Nations agency concerned with safety of shipping and protection of the marine environment and is concerned with ensuring ships comply with international standards, including financial security. The Maritime Safety Committee is the highest technical body of the Organization. Delegates from all 162 member States may attend. The main function of the MSC is to consider any matter within the scope of the Organization that directly affects maritime safety. It has the power to adopt amendments to conventions, such as the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), Collision Regulations, Load Lines etc. It is assisted in its work by nine sub-committees which are also open to all Member States.  They deal with the following subjects: Bulk Liquids and Gases; Carriage of Dangerous Goods; Solid Cargoes and Containers; Fire Protection; Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue; Safety of Navigation; Ship Design and Equipment; Stability and Load Lines and Fishing Vessel Safety; Standards of Training and Watchkeeping and Flag State Implementation.

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For further information please contact:
Lee Adamson, Public Information Manager on 0207 587 3153 ( or
Natasha Brown, Information Officer on 0207 587 3274 (


[1] ‘Bulk carrier casualty report – 2001 and the previous ten years (1992-2001)’ - INTERCARGO

[2] For computer-based interactive systems reference may be made to ISO 13407:1999