Long-range identification and tracking of ships on agenda at IMO's Maritime Safety Comittee

Preview: Maritime Safety Committee - 81st session: 10-19 May 2006
  • Long-range identification and tracking of ships
  • Adoption of amendments
  • Passenger ship safety
  • Prevention of accidents involving lifeboats
  • Goal-based new ship construction standards
  • Review of the STCW Convention and the STCW Code
  • Review of principles of safe manning
  • Consideration of human element issues in IMO's work
  • Work by Sub-Committee on other issues
  • Implementation of the revised STCW Convention
IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) will discuss the proposed adoption of new regulations on Long-Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) of ships, when it meets at the Organization's London Headquarters for its 81st session from 10 to 19 May 2006.

Other important issues on the MSC agenda include the adoption of other amendments to the SOLAS and STCW Conventions, development of goal-based standards for new ship construction and passenger ship safety.

LRIT
The MSC will consider, with a view to adoption, draft proposed regulations for the Long-Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) of ships together with associated performance standards and functional requirements. These have been developed by the Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR), taking into account work carried out initially by the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation (NAV).

The proposals before the Committee suggest the inclusion of the regulation in SOLAS chapter V on Safety of Navigation, through which LRIT will be introduced as a mandatory requirement for all ships covered by the SOLAS Convention. The aim is to establish a mechanism for the collection from ships of LRIT information, at the initial stage, for security and search and rescue and a scheme for the provision of LRIT information to SOLAS Contracting Governments.

It is envisaged that the LRIT information ships would be required to transmit include the ship's identity, location and date and time of the position; and that there should be no interface between LRIT and AIS. One of the more important distinctions between LRIT and AIS, apart from the obvious one of range, is that, whereas AIS is a broadcast system, data derived through LRIT will be available only to the recipients who are entitled to receive such information and safeguards concerning the confidentiality of those data have been built into the regulatory provisions.

The draft proposed regulation foresees a phased-in implementation schedule for ships constructed before its eventual entry into force date and exemption for ships operating exclusively in sea area A1 from the requirements to transmit LRIT information, since such ships are already fitted with AIS. It also identifies which authorities may have access to LRIT information.

The MSC will also consider draft performance standards and functional requirements for LRIT prepared by the COMSAR Sub-Committee.

Adoption of amendments
The MSC will consider for adoption a number of other proposed amendments.

Amendments to SOLAS Chapter II-2 - Fire protection
These include draft amendments relating to Regulation 9 - Containment of fire, so as to include a requirement for water-mist nozzles which should be tested and approved in accordance with the guidelines approved by the Organization; and in Regulation 15 - Arrangements for oil fuel, lubricating oil and other flammable oils, draft new text relating to the application of the regulations to ships constructed on or after 1 February 1992 and on or after 1 July 1998.

Amendments to SOLAS Chapter III - Life-saving appliances and arrangements
In Regulation 7 - Personal life-saving appliances, the draft amendments add a new requirement for infant lifejackets. For passenger ships on voyages less than 24 hours, a number of infant lifejackets equal to at least 2.5% of the number of passengers on board is to be provided; and for passenger ships on voyages of 24 hours or greater, infant lifejackets are to be provided for each infant on board. A further draft amendment relates to provision of lifejackets for larger passengers and states that, if the adult lifejackets provided are not designed to fit persons with a chest girth of up to 1,750 mm, a sufficient number of suitable accessories are to be available on board to allow them to be secured to such persons.

Amendments to SOLAS Chapter IV - Radiocommunications
The draft amendments relate to the provision of radio equipment, in Regulation 7, to require ships to carry an EPIRB capable of transmitting a distress alert through the polar orbiting satellite service (COSPAS-SARSAT) operating in the 406 MHz band; and, in Regulations 9 and 10, to clarify that the means of initiating ship-to-shore distress alerts may be through the Inmarsat geostationary satellite service by a ship earth station.

Amendments to SOLAS Chapter V - Safety of Navigation
The draft amendment adds a new paragraph to allow ballast water exchange at sea, provided that the master has determined that it is safe to do so and takes into consideration any increased blind sectors or reduced horizontal fields of vision resulting from the operation to ensure that a proper lookout is maintained at all times. The operation should be conducted in accordance with the ship's ballast water management plan, taking into account the recommendations on ballast water exchange. The commencement and termination of the operation should be recorded in the ship's record of navigational activities.

Amendments to the International Code for Fire Safety Systems (FSS Code)
The draft amendments replace the text of Chapter 5 Fixed gas fire-extinguishing systems with a revised text.

Amendments to the International Life-Saving Appliance Code (LSA Code)
The draft amendments include the requirement that all life saving appliances should withstand in stowage an air temperature range of 30°C to +65°C and personal life-saving appliances should remain operational throughout an air temperature range of -15°C to +40°C. The colour of life-saving appliances is now specified to be "of international or vivid reddish orange, or a comparably highly visible colour on all parts where this will assist detection at sea". The existing section 2.2 on General requirements for lifejackets is revised and replaced. Further amendments relate to specifications for immersion suits and anti-exposure suits.

Amendments to Guidelines for the authorization of organizations acting on behalf of the Administration (Resolution A.739(18))
The draft amendments to the guidelines, which are mandatory under SOLAS chapter XI-1, add a new paragraph 2-1 to require the use of only exclusive surveyors and auditors for surveys and certification, although radio surveys may be subcontracted to non-exclusive surveyors.

Amendments to the STCW Convention and STCW Code
The draft amendments add new minimum mandatory training and certification requirements for persons to be designated as ship security officers (SSOs). The draft amendments to the STCW Convention and to parts A and B of the STCW Code include Requirements for the issue of certificates of proficiency for Ship Security Officers; Specifications of minimum standards of proficiency for ship security officers; and Guidance regarding training for Ship Security Officers.

Further draft amendments to part A of the STCW Code add additional training requirements for the launching and recovery of fast rescue boats. The proposed amendments have been prepared in response to reports of injuries to seafarers in numerous incidents involving launching and recovery of fast rescue boats in adverse weather conditions.

Amendments to the 1988 SOLAS Protocol
The draft amendments relate to surveys of structure, machinery and equipment of cargo ships, to require a minimum of two inspections of the outside of the ship's bottom during the five year period of validity of the Cargo Ship Safety Construction Certificate or the Cargo Ship Safety Certificate, except in certain circumstances. The interval between any two such inspections should not exceed 36 months.

Amendments to the IMDG Code
Draft amendments to the IMDG Code (Amendment 33-06) include those intended to reflect the decisions of the UN Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (UN SCOE), including those relating to transport of UN 1040 (Ethylene Oxide with Nitrogen up to a total pressure of 1 Mpa (10 bar) at 50oC); UN 2211 (Polymeric beads); UN 3314 (Plastics moulding compound); Ammonium Nitrate (UN 1942) and Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer (UN 2067); segregation provisions for class 8 acids and alkalis when not in limited quantities; and the packaging of articles containing dangerous goods in limited quantities.

Passenger ship safety
The MSC will review the work carried out in a number of Sub-Committees to contribute to its major work programme item on passenger ship safety. The work bases its guiding philosophy on the premise that the regulatory framework should place more emphasis on the prevention of a casualty from occurring in the first place and that future 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. The Working Group on Passenger Ship Safety will be established to consider the work in detail.

The Sub-Committees on Radiocommunications, Search and Rescue (COMSAR), Ship Design and Equipment (DE), Fire Protection (FP), Stability, Load Lines and Fishing Vessel Safety (SLF) will report on their work on passenger ship safety and the MSC will be asked to consider proposed draft amendments to SOLAS chapters II-1 and II-2 and the FSS Code related to alternative designs and arrangements; safe areas and the essential systems to be maintained while a ship proceeds to port after a casualty; on-board safety centres, from where safety systems can be controlled, operated and monitored; recovery systems for search and rescue; fixed fire detection and alarm systems, including requirements for fire detectors and manually operated call points to be capable of being remotely and individually identified; and fire prevention, including amendments aimed at enhancing the fire safety of atriums, the means of escape in case of fire and ventilation systems. Further proposed amendments relate to time for orderly evacuation and abandonment, including requirements for the essential systems that must remain operational in case any one main vertical zone is unserviceable due to fire.

Other draft amendments for consideration relate to SOLAS chapter III on recovery arrangements for the rescue of persons at sea, which would state that all SOLAS ships must be equipped to recover persons from the water and/or survival craft and rescue craft, and give functional requirements for achieving this. Draft circulars for consideration include: Guidelines for recovery techniques; Guidelines on the provision of external support as an aid to incident containment for SAR Authorities and others concerned; Enhanced contingency planning guidance for passenger ships operating in areas remote from SAR facilities as well as Criteria for what constitutes an area remote from SAR facilities; Guidelines on training of SAR service personnel working in major incidents; and Guidance for cold water survival.

Prevention of accidents involving lifeboats
The MSC will consider for approval and subsequent adoption a proposed draft amendment to SOLAS regulation III/19.3.3.4 concerning provisions for the launch of free-fall lifeboats during abandon-ship drills. The amendment will allow, during the abandon-ship drill, for the lifeboat to either be free-fall launched with only the required operating crew on board, or lowered into the water by means of the secondary means of launching without the operating crew on board, and then manoeuvred in the water by the operating crew. The aim is to prevent accidents with lifeboats occurring during abandon-ship drills. The MSC will also consider a draft MSC circular on Early implementation of draft SOLAS regulation III/19.3.3.4; a draft MSC circular on Guidelines for the development of operation and maintenance manuals for lifeboats and a draft MSC circular on Measures to prevent accidents with lifeboats consolidating previous circulars MSC/Circ.1049, MSC/Circ.1093, MSC/Circ.1136 and MSC/Circ.1137. The draft consolidated circular includes the Guidelines for periodic servicing and maintenance of lifeboats, launching appliances and on-load release gear; Guidance on safety during abandon-ship drills using lifeboats; and Guidelines for simulated launching of free-fall lifeboats.

Goal-based new ship construction standards
The MSC will continue its work on developing goal-based standards (GBS) for new ship construction. The work has a five-tier structure: goals (Tier I), functional requirements (Tier II), verification of compliance criteria (Tier III), technical procedures and guidelines, classification rules and industry standards (Tier IV) and codes of practice and safety and quality systems for shipbuilding, ship operation, maintenance, training, manning, etc. (Tier V).

Interesessional work by a correspondence group will be reviewed by the MSC and a GBS Working Group is expected to continue the work during the session. The work-plan for GBS includes consideration of the probabilistic safety level methodology in the framework of GBS; completion of Tier II - functional requirements; development of Tier III - verification of compliance criteria; implementation of GBS; incorporation of GBS into IMO instruments; development of a ship construction file and consideration of the need for the development of a ship inspection and maintenance file; and consideration of the need to review consistency and adequacy of scope across the tiers.

Review of the STCW Convention and the STCW Code
The MSC will be invited to consider a proposal that a comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and STCW Code is needed, in order to ensure that ensure that the Convention meets the new challenges facing the shipping industry including, but not limited to, rapid technological advances today and in the future. In addition, the MSC will also consider proposals to introduce training requirements for personnel manning liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers, mandatory alcohol limits during watchkeeping duties and training and familiarization with electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS).

Review of Principles of safe manning
The MSC will also be asked to consider the approval of a new work programme item dealing with the review and revision of the Principles of Safe Manning, with a view to considering, for example, whether it might be appropriate to identify factors against which flag and port State administrations can evaluate manning levels on ships of similar type, size and trade.

Consideration of human element issues in IMO's work
The report of the Joint MSC/MEPC Working Group on Human Element, which was reconvened during the fifty third session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (18 to 22 July 2005) will be considered. Specifically, the MSC will be invited to approve draft MSC/MEPC circulars on: checklist for considering human element issues by IMO bodies; strengthening of human element input to the work of IMO; framework for IMO consideration of ergonomics and work environment; and the Organization's strategy to address the human element, which includes a related action plan.

Work by Sub-Committees on other issues
Other issues under consideration, which have been considered by the Sub-Committees, include the proposed adoption of a new traffic separation scheme (TSS) (Canary Islands) as well as amendments to existing TSS; adoption of routeing measures other than TSS, namely new areas to be avoided (Dover Strait, Canary Islands); and adoption of a new mandatory ship reporting system for the Canary Islands.

Other issues include consideration of a draft Performance standard for protective coatings of dedicated seawater tanks and of double-side skin spaces of bulk carriers; proposed amendments to the 1994 and 2000 High-Speed Craft (HSC) Codes; adoption of revised performance standards for shipborne voyage data recorders (VDRs) (resolution A.861(20)) and simplified voyage data recorders (S-VDRs) (resolution MSC.163(78)), for which carriage requirements enter into force on 1 July 2006; a draft MSC circular on Means of embarkation on and disembarkation from ships; a draft MSC/MEPC circular on IMO requirements on carriage of publications on board ships; and unified interpretations of SOLAS.

Implementation of the revised STCW Convention
The list of Parties deemed to be giving full and complete effect to the provisions of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as amended, is expected to be updated when IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos submits his report on those countries whose reports of independent evaluations have been completed since the previous MSC meeting.

Briefing 16, 9 May 2006

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