Maritime Safety Committee - 70th session: 7-11 December 1998

The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) considered further measures to enhance the safety of bulk carriers.

In November 1997, IMO adopted a new chapter XII on bulk carrier safety to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974. Chapter XII aims to prevent losses of bulk carriers due to structural failure following flooding of the foremost hold, identified as the cause of a number of losses of bulk carriers in the early 1990s. The chapter contains a number of requirements for improving the structural integrity of bulk carriers, including strengthening the double bottom and bulkhead of the foremost hold where required.

However, a 1998 report on the sinking of the bulk carrier Derbyshire in September 1980 with the loss of 44 lives, presented at the last session of the MSC in May by the United Kingdom, contains further recommendations relating to the design and construction of bulk carriers.

Based on the report of a Working Group on bulk carrier safety, which reviewed the findings of the report, the MSC agreed to refer a number of issues to the Sub-Committee on Stability and Load Lines and on Fishing Vessel Safety (SLF), including:

  1. strength of hatch covers and coamings;
  2. freeboard and bow height;
  3. reserve buoyancy at fore end, including forecastles;
  4. structural means to reduce loads on hatch covers and forward structure; and
  5. fore deck and fore end access.

These issues will be considered in the context of the ongoing review of the 1966 Load Lines Convention. The MSC invited delegations to submit proposals on other specific issues, including dealing with loss of steering ability on a bulk carrier and training and operational matters

The MSC also invited further submissions on proposals that new bulk carriers should be required to carry a safe haven, which would float free if the ship were to sink, and that existing bulk carriers should be fitted with freefall lifeboats.

The MSC agreed various interpretations and clarifications requested by the 1997 SOLAS Conference and adopted them by an MSC Resolution. These include the identification of bulk carriers for port State control purposes, the definition of bulk carrier in SOLAS Chapter IX and the application of SOLAS regulations XII/9 on Requirements for bulk carriers not being capable of complying with regulation 4.2 due to the design configuration of their cargo holds and XII/10 on Solid bulk cargo density declaration.

Formal Safety Assessment study on bulk carriers agreed

The MSC agreed with a United Kingdom proposal to carry out a formal safety assessment (FSA) study of bulk carriers, to aid future IMO decision-making on bulk carrier safety.

FSA is described as a rational and systematic process for assessing the risks associated with any sphere of activity, and for evaluating the costs and benefits of different options for reducing those risks. It therefore enables, in its potential application to the rule making process, an objective assessment to be made of the need for, and content of, safety regulations.

The FSA study, scheduled to be completed over a two year period by a number of IMO Member States in collaboration with observer organizations will look at a range of measures to improve bulk carrier safety, including problem areas referred to the MSC by the SOLAS Conference of November 1997, which adopted the new Chapter XII to SOLAS on bulk carrier safety.

The FSA study is also likely to consider further whether chapter XII should apply to bulk carriers under 150 metres in length and to double skin bulk carriers, as well as those of single skin construction. The study may also look at the benefits of specific safety measures, such as the need for a device to detect water ingress into cargo holds of existing bulk carriers would assist in warning the crew of situations where one or more holds were in the process of flooding and the possible need for crew access to the foredeck in heavy weather.

FSA consists of five steps:

  • identification of hazards (a list of all relevant accident scenarios withpotential causes and outcomes);
  • assessment of risks (evaluation of risk factors);
  • risk control options (devising regulatory measures to control and reduce the identified risks);
  • cost benefit assessment (determining cost effectiveness of each risk control option); and
  • recommendations for decision-making (information about the hazards, their associated risks and the cost effectiveness of alternative risk control options is provided).

Amendments to STCW Code

The MSC adopted amendments to the Seafarers' Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Code, aimed at improving minimum standards of competence of crews, in particular relating to cargo securing, loading and unloading on bulk carriers, since these procedures have the potential to put undue stresses on the ship's structure. The amendments, due to enter into force on 1 January 2003, concern section A-II/1 and A-II/2 under "Cargo handling and stowage at the operational and management levels".

STCW Parties urged to nominate more competent persons

The MSC urged parties to the revised International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) to nominate further "competent persons" to help in assessing reports on compliance with the Convention.

By 1 August 1998, Parties to the Convention were required to communicate to IMO details on the steps taken to ensure the Convention has been given full and complete effect, including administrative arrangements and details of courses, training programmes, examinations and assessments provided for each certificate issued. Eighty-two Parties have communicated information in accordance with the Convention. Competent persons nominated by Parties to the Convention, in panels of five, have begun assessing the reports submitted, and a full report is expected to be made by the Secretary-General of IMO to MSC when the task is completed.

So far , 168 competent persons have been nominated, including 115 English-speaking, 32 French speaking and 21 Spanish speaking. More French and Spanish speakers were needed. To date, two panels have already completed their work and reported to the Secretary-General, 21 Parties have been requested to provide clarifications and 59 panels are engaged in their initial evaluation of information communicated.

Action urged on fraudulent certificates

The MSC urged Member States to advise IMO if they encountered fraudulent certificates, following reports of a proliferation of fraudulent STCW certificates of competency, or authentic certificates reportedly issued on the basis of forged foreign certificates, which had been found during port State control inspections. Furthermore, a significant number of certificates of competency might have been issued by certain Administrations on the basis of certificates issued by another Party without sufficient verification of the validity of the original certificate or of the right of the individual concerned to hold the certificate.

The MSC noted that such a development would undermine the objectives of the revised STCW Convention, and agreed a draft MSC Circular on Fraudulent certificates of competency, to be finalised by the Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping, which in January 1999

ISM Code deadline highlighted

The MSC approved a Circular to highlight the deadline of 1 July 2002, when all ships and mobile offshore units on international voyages will have to comply with the International Safety Management (ISM) Code. The Code, which is mandatory under Chapter IX of SOLAS, was adopted in 1994 and entered into force on 1 July 1998 for all oil tankers, chemical tankers, bulk carriers, gas carriers, passenger ships and cargo high-speed craft of 500 gt and above on international voyages. It is extended to other ships on international voyages in 2002.

The Code requires a safety management system (SMS) to be established by "the Company", which is described as the shipowner or any person, such as the manager or bareboat charterer, who has assumed responsibility for operating the ship. Administrations must issue a Document of Compliance (DOC) to every company that meets the standards laid down in the Code, a copy of which is required to be carried on board every ship of the company, while ships must also be issued with a Safety Management Certificate (SMC). Verification of compliance with the Code - such as checking the DOCs and SMCs - may be carried out during port State control inspections.

The MSC agreed in principle to proposed draft amendments to SOLAS Chapter IX and the ISM Code, which are intended to be approved and adopted in time for them to enter into force on 1 July 2002.

The proposed draft amendments concern provisions relating to periods of validity of certificates, interim certification and forms of certificates, currently included in Assembly resolution A.788(19) on Guidelines on implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code by Administrations.

The relevant provisions of resolution A.788(19) could be included in SOLAS chapter IX or section 13 "Certification, verification and control" of the ISM Code or in both. Adding these provisions to Chapter IX or the Code itself would make them mandatory, rather than recommendatory.

States urged to take action against piracy

The MSC urged Member Governments to take all necessary measures to prevent and suppress piracy and armed robbery against ships, acknowledging that the success of any efforts were dependent largely on actions taken by port and coastal States.

IMO has begun a series of expert missions and regional seminars to discuss the prevention and suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships. Areas of the world targeted include South East Asia, South and Central America, West Africa and the Indian Ocean.

In early October, a mission of experts on piracy and armed robbery against ships took place in Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, wiht the co-operation of the Governments of the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore; and a second mission , with the co-operation of the Government of Brazil, visited the ports of Santos and Rio de Janeiro on 19 and 23 October 1998 respectively. In addition, a seminar and workshop on piracy and armed robbery against ships was conducted in Brasilia, attended by representatives of the Governments of Brazil, Colombia, Panama, Suriname and Venezuela and observers from Chile, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

A regional seminar and workshop for the South East Asia region is scheduled to take place in Singapore from 3 to 5 February 1999; a third mission of experts, to be followed by a regional seminar and workshop, is being planned for the West African region for the second half of 1999; and subject to the availability of funds, a similar mission and a regional seminar and workshop for the Indian Ocean region is envisaged during 1999.

The overall aim of these missions and seminars is to find measures to reduce the number of attacks reported each year, through increasing awareness and promoting regional cooperation.

The number of incidents, reported to have occurred in 1997 and 1998, up to the end of August increased to 103 world-wide ( from 62 in 1997 January-August), including 42 in the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait (up from 22); and 20 in the Indian Ocean (up from nine).

The areas most affected were the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait, Indian Ocean, South America and West and East Africa.

A total of 1,329 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships have been reported to IMO (to the end of November 1998) since 1984, when IMO began compiling piracy and armed robbery statistics.

Fatigue correspondence group set up

The MSC established a correspondence group to review the role of fatigue in maritime safety, following a review of work carried out by the Joint MSC/Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) Working Group on the Human Element.

The Working Group notes in a report on discussions at the previous MSC session, that there is a need to: understand the nature of fatigue; identify the extent of the problem; identify the factors which have an influence on fatigue; and develop strategies to manage the problem.

The report points out that fatigue has been recognized around the world as a contributor to many accidents involving means of transport. There have been many incidences where fatigue has been suspected of contributing or causing transportation and industrial accidents; however, that connection was difficult to justify because the vital links between the unsafe acts and decisions which led to the accidents and the fatigue state of the people involved were not made.

The reasons for not making the links have varied. At one time, fatigue was discounted as a potential cause of human error; indeed, a common myth existed that fatigue could be prevented by characteristics of personality, intelligence, education, training, skill, compensation, motivation, physical size, strength, attractiveness, or professionalism. Also, the lack of scientifically accepted information on how fatigue affects not only mood and feelings, but individual and team performance as well, constrainedinvestigators and analysts. Further, guidance on how to investigate for fatigue and build the links between a person's recent history and potential impairment has been lacking. Unlike alcohol and drugs which can be measured by, for example, blood tests, there is no unequivocal physical or chemical test which can tell us that a person was impaired to a certain extent by fatigue.

The correspondence group, to be co-ordinated by the United States, will review definitions of the term "fatigue" used within IMO; develop advice and recommendations to tie in with the "rest" requirements of the revised STCW Convention; review how "fatigue" affects maritime safety; and develop strategies to develop a safety culture by addressing the issue of "fatigue".

Flag State Performance Self-Assessment Form approved

The MSC approved a Flag State Performance Self-Assessment Form, previously agreed by the Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI) and approved by the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), with minor modifications.

The form is intended to establish a uniform set of internal and external criteria which can be used by flag States on a voluntary basis to obtain a clear picture of how well their maritime administrations are functioning and to make their own assessment of their performance as flag States. The form may be submitted to IMO when requests are made for technical assistance.

The form covers issues such as asking whether the Administration has the necessary laws, infrastructure and human resources in place to implement and enforce international maritime safety and pollution prevention instruments.

Unsafe practices associated with the trafficking or transport of migrants by sea

The MSC approved an advisory Circular outlining Interim measures for combating Unsafe practices associated with the trafficking or transport of migrants by sea, which is intended to supplement work by the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to develop and adopt a United Nations instrument against transnational organized crime, to include provisions against illegal trafficking of migrants by sea.

The advisory circular notes that experience has shown that migrants often are transported on ships that are not properly manned, equipped or licensed for carrying passengers on international voyages. States should take steps relating to maritime safety, in accordance with domestic and international law, to eliminate these unsafe practices associated with the trafficking or transport of migrants by sea, including:

  • ensuring compliance with SOLAS;
  • collecting and disseminating information on ships believed to be engaged in unsafe practices associated with trafficking or transporting migrants
  • taking appropriate action against masters, officers and crew members engaged in such unsafe practices; and
  • preventing any such ship:
    1. from again engaging in unsafe practices; and
    2. if in port, from sailing.

The circular contains a proposed format for reporting any incidents to IMO, so that the circular can be updated and revised on the basis of experience.

Mandatory ship reporting system to protect northern right whale off United States adopted

The MSC adopted a mandatory ship reporting system, off the northeastern coast and the southeastern coast of the United States, covering an area inhabited by the endangered northern right whale. This is the first time a mandatory ship reporting system has been implemented for the protection of one particular marine species from direct physical impact with ships, rather than for protection of the marine environment from ships.

The aim of the reporting systems is to provide important protection for endangered large whale species, in particular the critically endangered northern right whale. Ship strikes are the species' largest known source of human-related mortality. Since 1991, approximately 50% of the recorded right whale mortalities have been attributed to ship strikes.

The mandatory ship reporting system off the southeastern coast of the United States will operate from 15 November to 15 April, which includes the calving season for right whales in this area; whilst the system off the northeastern coast will operate throughout the year as right whales have been sighted in this area throughout the year. The scheme will be implemented from 0000 hours UTC on 1 July 1999.

Raster chart performance standards adopted

The MSC adopted performance standards for Raster Chart Display Systems, through amendments to the performance standards for electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS), to allow the systems to be used with raster charts where vector electronic chart systems are not available.

A raster chart is basically just a visual scan of a paper chart. It is a computer-based system which uses charts issued by, or under the authority of, a national hydrographic office, together with automatic continuous electronic positioning, to provide an integrated navigational tool. A vector chart is more complex. Each point on the chart is digitally mapped, allowing the information to be used in a more sophisticated way, such as clicking on a feature (for example, a lighthouse) to get all the details of that feature displayed. The international standard for vector charts has been finalised by the International Hydrographic Organization (S-57, Version 3), and IMO adopted performance standards for ECDIS, using vector charts, in 1995 by Assembly Resolution A.817(19).

The amendments to Resolution A.817(19) state that some ECDIS equipment may operate in Raster Chart Display System (RCDS) mode when the relevant chart information is not available in vector mode. The amendments to the ECDIS performance standards indicate which performance standards for vector charts apply equally to raster charts, and add specific specifications for raster charts, covering such aspects as display requirements, alarms and indicators, provision and updating of chart information and route planning.

The amendments state that when used in RCDS mode, ECDIS equipment should be used together with an appropriate folio of up-to-date paper charts.

The MSC also agreed a Safety of Navigation Circular on Differences between Raster Chart Display systems (RCDS) and Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS).

Performance standards agreed: The MSC also adopted performance standards for the following:

  • Sound reception systems
  • Integrated Navigation Systems (INS)
  • Marine Transmitting Magnetic Heading Devices (TMHDs)

Helicopter landing area regulation to be reviewed

The MSC agreed to review the requirement in SOLAS Chapter III, Regulation 28.2 for helicopter landing areas to be fitted to passenger ships of 130 metres in length and upwards constructed on or after 1 July 1999. The decision follows trial applications of Formal Safety Assessment (FSA) to the requirement.

The requirement was part of a package of amendments to SOLAS adopted in November 1995, based on proposals put forward by a Panel of Experts set up by IMO in December 1994 following the Ro-ro ferry Estonia disaster of September 1994 in which more than 850 people were killed.

Regulation 28.1 of SOLAS Chapter III requires all ro-ro passenger ships to be provided with a helicopter pick-up area and existing ro-ro passenger ships were required to comply with this regulation not later than the first periodical survey after 1 July 1997. But the requirement for a helicopter landing area for all passenger ships of 130 metres in length and upwards was deferred to 1 July 1999.

The FSA Working Group, meeting at the session, concluded that based on the FSA studies carried out, which had been reviewed by a correspondence group, the requirement for helicopter landing areas on non ro-ro passenger ships cannot be justified in terms of the cost effectiveness of the measure in reducing risk. Therefore the group considered the requirement should apply to ro-ro passenger ships only. The MSC, in endorsing the conclusion of the working Group, agreed that SOLAS regulation III/28.2 should be amended. A number of delegations said the regulation should remain as it is.

The MSC noted that in view of the proposed new amendments restricting the application of the helicopter landing area regulation, an anomalous situation would result during the period 1 July 1999, (when existing regulation III/28.2, requiring helicopter landing areas on all passenger ships, enters into force) and the date when the proposed amendment requiring helicopter landing areas only on ro-ro passenger ships would be expected to enter into force. Member States were invited to submit comments and proposals to MSC 71, in May 1999, when the Committee would have to consider how to pursue the issue.

Year 2000 and ship reporting systems

The MSC approved a circular inviting ships participating in mandatory ship reporting systems to inform the relevant authorities of the status of Year 2000 readiness on the ship, when requested to do so. The Year 2000 problem is well known - it might affect personal computers used on board ships as well as all devices with embedded microchips in which timing is used. The MSC has issued circulars highlighting the problem.

Navigation through the Strait of Istanbul, Strait of Canakkale and the Marmara Sea

The MSC Working Group on Ships' Routeing and related matters continued work on preparing a report covering all aspects of safety and environmental protection including the review of IMO rules and Recommendations on Navigation through the Strait of Istanbul, Strait of Çanakkale and the Marmara Sea.

The straits are narrow and winding and are potentially dangerous waterways. The Strait of Istanbul, which runs through Istanbul, Turkey's largest city with a population of 13 million, has several sharp turns and at Kandilli and Yenikoy rear and forward sights are blocked during turns.

Rules and Recommendations on Navigation through the Straits were adopted by IMO in 1994. The IMO Assembly in 1995 (Resolution A.827(19)) called on the Maritime Safety Committee to review these rules.

Circulars approved by MSC 70

MSC/Circ.881Implementation of the ISM Code by 1 July 2002

MSC/Circ.882 Guidelines on annual testing of 406 MHz satellite EPIRBs

MSC/Circ.883Maritime safety and Inmarsat ship earth station barring procedures

MSC/Circ.884Guidelines for safe ocean towing

MSC/Circ.885Testing and approval of positions-indicating lights for life-saving appliances under the LSA Code

MSC/Circ.886 Safety of personnel during container securing operations

MSC/Circ.887Interpretation of the term "other strategic points" in SOLAS regulation III/50 and LSA Code section VII/7.2

MSC/Circ.888Measures to prevent persons falling into openings formed by corrugated bulkheads in general cargo ships

MSC/Circ.889/MEPC/Circ.353 Self-Assessment of Flag State Performance

MSC/Circ.890/MEPC/Circ.354 Interim Guidelines for port State control related to the ISM Code

MSC/Circ.891 Guidelines for the on-board use and application of computers

MSC/Circ.892Alerting of search and rescue authorities

MSC/Circ.893Navigational warnings concerning operations endangering the safety of navigation

MSC/Circ.894Addressing the year 2000 problem : Co-operation within mandatory ship reporting systems

MSC/Circ.895 Recommendation on helicopter landing areas on ro-ro passenger ships

MSC/Circ.896Interim Measures for combatting unsafe practices associated with the trafficking or transport of migrants by sea

COLREG.2/Circ.45 Amended traffic separation scheme

SN/Circ.203 Routeing measures other than traffic separation schemes

SN/Circ.204Amendments to the General Provisions on Ships' Routeing

SN/Circ.205Mandatory ship reporting systems

SN/Circ.206Guidance for ships transiting through archipelagic waters

SN/Circ.207Differences between Raster Chart Display Systems (RCDS) and Electronic Chart Display and Information systems (ECDIS)