Maritime Safety Committee - 71st session: 19-28 May 1999

The Committee adopted amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, aimed at making the International Code for the Safe Carriage of Packaged Irradiated Nuclear Fuel, Plutonium and High-Level Radioactive Wastes on Board Ships (INF Code) mandatory. The amendments relate to chapter VII of SOLAS (Carriage of dangerous goods).

The amendments making the INF Code mandatory are expected to enter into force (under tacit acceptance) on 1 January 2001.

The INF Code sets out how the material covered by the Code should be carried, including specifications for ships. The material covered by the code includes:

Irradiated nuclear fuel
material containing uranium, thorium and/or plutonium isotopes which has been used to maintain a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.

the resultant mixture of isotopes of that material extracted from irradiated nuclear fuel from reprocessing.

High-level radioactive wastes
liquid wastes resulting from the operation of the first stage extraction system or the concentrated wastes from subsequent extraction stages, in a facility for reprocessing irradiated fuel, or solids into which such liquid wastes have been converted.

The INF code applies to all ships regardless of the date of construction and size, including cargo ships of less than 500 gross tonnage, engaged in the carriage of INF cargo. The INF Code does not apply to warships, naval auxiliary or other ships used only on government non-commercial service, although Administrations are expected to ensure such ships are in compliance with the Code.

Specific regulations in the Code cover a number of issues, including:

  • damage stability
  • fire protection
  • temperature control of cargo spaces
  • structural consideration
  • cargo securing arrangements
  • electrical supplies
  • radiological protection equipment and management
  • training and
  • shipboard emergency plans.

Ships carrying INF cargo are assigned to one of three classes, depending on the total radioactivity of INF cargo which is carried on board, and regulations vary slightly according to the Class:

Class INF 1 ship
Ships which are certified to carry INF cargo with an aggregate activity less than 4,000 TBq (TeraBecquerel - measurement of radioactivity).

Class INF 2 ship
Ships which are certified to carry irradiated nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive wastes with an aggregate activity less than 2 x 106 TBq and ships which are certified to carry plutonium with an aggregate activity less than 2 x 105 TBq.

Class INF 3 ship
Ships which are certified to carry irradiated nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive wastes and ships which are certified to carry plutonium with no restriction of the maximum aggregate activity of the materials.

The INF Code was first adopted as a recommendatory Code by the eighteenth session of the Assembly on 4 November 1993 (resolution A.748(18). The twentieth session of the Assembly adopted amendments to the INF Code to include specific requirements for shipboard emergency plans and notification in the event of an incident (resolution A.853(20), adopted on 27 November 1997).

The Maritime Safety Committee, at its sixty-eighth session in May-June 1997 and the Marine Environment Protection Committee, at its thirty-ninth session in March 1997, agreed that the INF Code, should be made mandatory under the 1974 SOLAS Convention. Redrafting was done to make the text of the INF Code suitable for a mandatory instrument.

1995 amendments to the STCW Convention - implementation

The Committee reviewed progress in implementing the 1995 amendments to the STCW Convention, which require Parties to the Convention to communicate to IMO information on compliance with the 1995 amendments. The information is being reviewed by panels of competent persons, who will report on their findings to the IMO Secretary-General, who will, in turn, report to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) on the Parties which fully comply.

By the 1 August 1998 deadline, 82 out of the 133 STCW Parties had communicated information on compliance with the requirements of the revised Convention. The 82 Parties which met the deadline represent well over 90% of the world's ships and seafarers.

By 21 May 1999, a further 13 Parties had communicated information, 15 panels of competent persons had completed their work and reported to the Secretary-General; 40 panels had completed their initial evaluations and clarifications had been requested from the Parties concerned; and, of those, 20 panels were considering clarifications that had been provided by the respective Parties.

The Committee decided at its 69th session in 1998 that the Secretary-General's report to the Committee will not be submitted until after all the information communicated by Parties received by 1 August 1998 has been evaluated by the competent persons concerned. The original tentative date of MSC 72 for the Secretary-General's report to the Committee was based on an estimated average of 20 weeks for each evaluation. To date, the average time taken by those panels which have completed their work is 21 weeks. Overall, the average time taken by panels to complete their initial evaluations to date is 15 weeks and the average time taken by Parties to provide clarifications is 7 weeks.

It is envisaged that all panels will complete their work by the deadline of 15 January 2000, so that the Secretary-General can have his report prepared by 1 March 2000 - two and a half months before the Committee meets.

Fight against fraudulent STCW certificates

The Committee agreed to a draft Assembly resolution on the issue of fraudulent certificates of competency to highlight the problem and encourage action by Member States to eliminate the circulation of fraudulent certificates.

The proposed resolution on Unlawful practices associated with certificates of competency and endorsements was drafted following concern about a proliferation of fraudulent certificates of competency, or authentic certificates reportedly issued on the basis of forged foreign certificates, which have been found during port State control inspections and applications for recognition of certificates.

The Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping, at its 30th session in January 1999 finalized a MSC circular on Fraudulent certificates of competency( MSC/ Circ.900) which invites Member States and Parties to STCW to report to IMO and to the relevant Administration any cases or suspected cases of fraudulent certificates, to intensify efforts to eliminate the problem, and to act under the terms of the Convention, including prosecution of those involved, if seafarers on board are found to be holding fraudulent certificates - this could also mean detaining the ship.

The draft Assembly resolution also urges Member Governments to take all possible steps to investigate cases and prosecute, or assist in the investigation and prosecution of, those found to be involved in the processing or obtaining of fraudulent certificates or endorsements, including the holders of such certificates or endorsements.

The draft Assembly resolution also urges Governments who endorse certificates issued by another Party to first confirm the authenticity of the original certificate from the issuing authority and to include details of the underlying certificate on the new document.

Bulk carrier safety

The MSC established a Working Group on Bulk Carrier Safety to review relevant submissions and agreed to establish a similar group at the next session.

Major issues relating to bulk carrier safety were addressed in November 1997, when IMO adopted a new chapter XII on Additional safety measures for bulk carriers to SOLAS, 1974, which enters into force on 1 July 1999. The regulations in the chapter aim to prevent losses of bulk carriers due to structural failure following flooding of any hold in new ships and of the foremost hold of existing ships, 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 1980 with the loss of 44 lives, presented at the 69th session of the MSC in May 1998 by the United Kingdom, contains further recommendations relating to the design and construction of bulk carriers.

At its last (70th) session in December 1998, the Committee referred a number of issues to the Sub-Committee on Stability and Load Lines and on Fishing Vessel Safety (SLF), and agreed to continue work at the current session.

Issues being looked at by the SLF Sub-Committee include:

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

The Committee agreed the SLF Sub-Committee should continue its work on these areas.

The Committee also agreed:

  • MSC Resolution on Interpretation of the provisions of SOLAS Chapter XII on additional safety measures for bulk carriers which includes guidance on application of and interpretation of the chapter to certain bulk carriers, including "Interpretation of the term "bulk carrier of single side skin construction" and Interpretation of the requirement for certain bulk carriers to be permanently marked on the side shell with a triangle.
  • MSC Circular on Uniform method of measurement of the density of bulk cargoes, including a performance specification for the measurement of the density of such cargoes.

FSA study on bulk carrier safety

The Committee reviewed progress in carrying out a a formal safety assessment (FSA) study of bulk carriers, to aid future IMO decision-making on bulk carrier safety and agreed to a framework setting out project objectives, scope and application, namely:

  1. to inform IMO’s future decision-making regarding measures to improve the safety of bulk carriers;
  2. to apply FSA methodology to the safety of dry bulk shipping; and
  3. to secure international collaboration and agreement.

The United Kingdom is coordinating the FSA study, which is expected to take two years.

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.

FSA consists of five steps:

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

The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) has carried out a Hazard Identification study on the watertight integrity of the fore end of bulk carriers, and has identified 51 hazards relating to the technical system, onboard operations, shore side operations during loading /unloading, and the management. Ten of these hazards are judged to represent an unacceptable level of risk and IACS notes they merit a more detailed assessment to determine the exact nature of the problem.

Helicopter landing area regulation to apply to ro-ro passenger ships only

The MSC agreed that 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 should in fact only apply to ro-ro passenger ships.

The Committee approved a draft amendment to regulation III/28.2 to require a helicopter landing area only for ro-ro passenger ships. The amendment is expected to be adopted at the at the 72nd session of the Committee in May 2000 and enter into force on 1 January 2002 under tacit acceptance.

The decision to review the existing requirement was made at the last (70th) session following 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 Committee approved a Circular recommending that non ro-ro passenger ships of 130 m in length and upwards constructed on or after 1 July 1999 need not be fitted with helicopter landing areas, and this should not constitute a reason for detaining or delaying the ship - since there is a delay between the regulation coming into effect for new ships and the adoption of the amendment making it applicable to ro-ro passenger ships only.

Piracy and armed robbery against ships - Correspondence Group to develop Code

The MSC established a Correspondence Group to prepare a preliminary draft text of an instrument for the investigation and prosecution of the crime of piracy and armed robbery against ships.

The idea for such a code was developed at a series of expert missions and seminars and workshops around the world organized by IMO.

Participants at the seminars already held have recommended that Governments need to intensify their efforts to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships and IMO should consider developing an international code for the investigation of piracy and armed robbery against ships and recommending an appropriate punishment for the crime.

The Correspondence Group is expected to submit the preliminary draft text of the proposed instrument to the next session of the Committee.

The Committee agreed to revisions to two circulars aimed at dealing with piracy and armed robbery against ships, which were originally adopted in 1993. The changes update the circulars and make the guidelines more comprehensive.

The circulars concerned are:

Revised MSC/Circ.622
Recommendations to Governments for preventing and suppressing piracy and armed robbery against ships suggests possible counter-measures that could be employed by Rescue Co-ordination Centres and security forces. Now also includes draft Regional agreement on co-operation in preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships.

Revised MSC/Circ.623
Guidance to shipowners and ship operators, shipmasters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships contains comprehensive advice on measures that can be taken onboard to prevent attacks or, when they occur, to minimize the danger to the crew and ship.

Fatigue guidance to be developed

The Committee agreed to a definition of fatigue:


A reduction in physical and/or mental capability as the result of physical, mental or emotional exertion which may impair nearly all physical abilities including: strength; speed; reaction time; co-ordination; decision making, or balance.

and to develop guidance on dealing with fatigue, in particular in implementing existing regulations which address the problem of fatigue and how it may contribute to accidents.

The decision follows work on fatigue by the Joint MSC/Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) Working Group on the Human Element and a Correspondence Group on fatigue. The Correspondence Group has been given the task of developing guidance for all concerned, taking into consideration existing related regulations, such as STCW regulations concerning minimum rest periods, and International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 180 which provides requirements for maximum work or minimum rest hours. The Group will also take into consideration the results of investigations into fatigue presented to IMO and any relevant national work/rest rule requirements.

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 to 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, constrained investigators 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.

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

The Committee agreed to discontinue discussions on reviewing IMO rules and Recommendations on Navigation through the Strait of Istanbul, Strait of Çanakkale and the Marmara Sea after a Working Group on Ships' Routeing and related matters met during the session to look at the issue.

The Working Group, after extensive technical discussion, did not reach any firm conclusion that any change to the rules would make a clear and definitive contribution to the safety of navigation in the straits. Turkey stated that it would inform the Organization of any developments in the establishment of Vessel Traffic Services in the Straits, the provision of pilotage services and further efforts to enhance the safety of navigation and environmental protection For the time being, the present IMO adopted routeing system including the associated IMO Rules and Recommendations (Resolution A, 827, adopted in 1994) will continue to apply. Any future information and proposals received concerning the routeing system and Rules and Recommendations will be given appropriate consideration.

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.

Draft resolutions

The MSC approved the following draft resolutions for submission to the 21st Assembly in November 1999:

  • Procedure for adoption of, and amendment to, performance standards and technical specifications - states the MSC is responsible for adopting performance standards and technical specifications and amendments thereto.
  • Principles of safe manning - revised resolution is intended to take into account developments in the shipping industry since 1981. It includes basic principles to be applied when considering manning levels in order to ensure the safe operation of the ship. It also includes detailed guidelines for the application of principles of safe manning and guidance on contents and a model format of a minimum safe manning document. Each ship should be issued with a "minimum safe manning document", specifying the minimum safe manning levels. The document can then be inspected during port State control. will replace resolution A.481(XII) adopted in 1981.

  • Unlawful practices associated with certificates of competency and endorsements (see above).

  • Self-assessment of flag state performance - includes the Flag State Performance Self-Assessment Form, already approved by the MSC and MEPC. 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.

  • Amendments to the code for the investigation of marine casualties and incidents (resolution A.849(20)) - to add Guidelines on investigation of human factors, which were developed by a Joint IMO/ILO Working group on Investigation of Human Factors in Maritime Casualties.

  • Amendments to the procedures for port state control (resolution A.787(19)) - aimed at updating the resolution, which contains comprehensive guidelines and recommendations on port State control procedures. New sections will incorporate procedures for port State control relating to the International Safety Management (ISM) Code.

  • Global and uniform implementation of the harmonized system of survey and certification (HSSC) - aimed at encouraging all States to implement the harmonized system, even if they are not parties to the relevant Protocols. The harmonized system of survey and certification was introduced by the 1988 Protocols to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS) and the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 (1966 Load Line Convention). The 1988 Protocols will enter into force on 3 February 2000.

  • International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue Manual - sets out procedure for updating the Manual which has been developed by IMO and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Circulars approved

The Committee approved the following Circulars: They are in Adobe Acrobat format. To download Adobe Acrobat click here.

MSC/Circ.907 Application of SOLAS regulation III/28.2 concerning helicopter landing areas on non ro-ro passenger ships
MSC/Circ.908 Uniform method of measurement of the density of bulk cargoes
MSC/Circ.909 Interim Guidelines for a simplified evacuation analysis of ro-ro passenger ships
MSC/Circ.910 Strength of ro-ro passenger ship "B" class bulkheads to which handrails are attached
MSC/Circ.911 Interpretations of the fire protection-related provisions of the HSC Code
MSC/Circ.912 Interpretations of the Standards for fixed sprinkler systems for high-speed craft
MSC/Circ.913 Guidelines for the approval of fixed water-based local application fire-fighting systems for use in category A machinery spaces
MSC/Circ.914 Guidelines for the approval of alternative fixed water-based fire-fighting systems for special category spaces
MSC/Circ.915 Unified interpretations of vague expressions and other vague wording of SOLAS chapter II-2
MSC/Circ.916 Unified interpretations of the Fire Test Procedures (FTP) Code and the fire test procedures referred to therein
MSC/Circ.917 Guidelines on fire safety construction in accommodation areas
MSC/Circ.918 Guidance for port State control officers in respect of certificates of competency issued under the provisions of the STCW Convention
MSC/Circ.919 Guidelines for damage control plans
MSC/Circ.920 Model loading and stability manual
MSC/Circ.921 Amendments to the BC Code
MSC/Circ.922 Recommendations on performance standards and tests for thermal protective lifejackets (Tplifejackets)

Other circulars

STCW.7/Circ.9 Guidance for competent persons evaluating information communicated by Parties on the implementation of the STCW Convention and STCW Code amendments which entered into force after 1 August 1998
LL.3/Circ.130 Unified interpretations of the 1966 LL Convention