New passenger ship safety standards set for adoption at IMO's Maritime Safety Committee

Preview: Maritime Safety Committee (82nd session): 29 November to 8 December 2006

Opening speech to the meeting

A raft of new international standards for passenger ship safety will be considered for adoption when IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meets in Istanbul, Turkey, for its 82nd session from 29 November to 8 December 2006.

Other important issues on the MSC agenda include the further development of goal-based standards and discussion of security and facilitation issues related to the carriage of containers by ships.

The MSC Vice-Chairman, Mr. Neil Ferrer of the Philippines, will take on the task of chairing the forthcoming MSC session, following the untimely death of Mr. Igor Ponomarev, Chairman of the MSC and Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to IMO.

Revised passenger ship safety standards
The package of draft amendments to SOLAS, which were approved at the last MSC session in May, are the result of a comprehensive review of passenger ship safety initiated in 2000 with the aim of assessing whether the current regulations were adequate, in particular for the large passenger ships being built.

The work in developing the draft new and amended regulations has based its guiding philosophy on the dual 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 proposed amendments include new concepts such as the incorporation of criteria for the casualty threshold (the amount of damage a ship is able to withstand, according to the design basis, and still safely return to port) into SOLAS chapters II-1 and II-2. The amendments also provide regulatory flexibility so that ship designers can meet any safety challenges the future may bring. The draft amendments include:

  alternative designs and arrangements;
  safe areas and the essential systems to be maintained while a ship proceeds to port after a casualty, which will require redundancy of propulsion and other essential systems;
  on-board safety centres, from where safety systems can be controlled, operated and monitored;
  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;
  fire prevention, including amendments aimed at enhancing the fire safety of atriums, the means of escape in case of fire and ventilation systems; and
  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.

Fire regulations on balconies
The MSC will consider for adoption draft amendments to SOLAS chapter II-2 and the International Code for Fire Safety Systems (FSS Code) to strengthen the fire protection arrangements in relation to cabin balconies on passenger vessels.

The amendments were developed in response to the fire aboard the cruise ship Star Princess, while on passage between Grand Cayman and Montego Bay, Jamaica, in March of this year. The fire began on an external balcony and spread over several decks.

The proposed draft amendments to SOLAS chapter II-2 are aimed at ensuring that existing regulations 4.4 (Primary deck coverings), 5.3.1.2 (Ceilings and linings), 5.3.2 (Use of combustible materials) and 6 (Smoke generation potential and toxicity) are also applied to cabin balconies on new passenger ships.

For existing passenger ships, relevant provisions would require that furniture on cabin balconies be of restricted fire risk unless fixed water spraying systems, fixed fire detection and fire alarm systems are fitted and that partitions separating balconies be constructed of non combustible materials, similar to the provisions for new passenger ships.

Prevention of accidents involving lifeboats
The MSC is expected to consider for adoption a 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.

Protective coatings
The MSC is expected to consider for adoption the Performance standard for protective coatings of dedicated seawater ballast tanks on all new ships and of double-side skin spaces of bulk carriers, which will then be made mandatory by way of amendments to SOLAS regulations II-1/3-2 and XII/6 concerning the application of the performance standard. It was agreed at the last MSC session that the performance standard should apply to ships for which the building contract is placed on or after 1 July 2008; or, in the absence of a building contract, the keels of which are laid on or after 1 January 2009, or the delivery of which is on or after 1 July 2012.

Other amendments
The MSC will also consider, with a view to adoption, other amendments:

  Proposed amendments to SOLAS chapter IV Radiocommunications to recognize future mobile satellite providers for the GMDSS, other than Inmarsat, in SOLAS.
  Draft amendments to the FSS Code relating to fire extinguishers, specifically portable foam applicators; fixed foam fire-extinguishing systems; fixed-pressure water-spraying and water-mist fire-extinguishing systems.
  Draft amendments to the International Life-Saving Appliance Code (LSA Code), including those related to life rafts, life boats and rescue boats, particularly in relation to stowage and release mechanisms.
  Draft amendments to the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC Code), relating to fire protection and fire extinction, including the fitting of a system for continuous monitoring of the concentration of flammable vapours on ships of 500 gross tonnage and over, and the revised chapters 17 Summary of minimum requirements, 18 List of products to which the code does not apply and 19 Index of Products Carried in Bulk.
  Draft amendments to the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC Code), to update the references to SOLAS regulations and to add dimethyl ether and carbon dioxide to the list of products in chapter 19 Summary of minimum requirements.
  Draft amendments to the International Code of Safety for High-Speed Craft, 1994 (1994 HSC Code) and the 2000 HSC Code, to update them in line with relevant SOLAS amendments and, in the case of the 2000 HSC Code, to revise requirements relating to testing and calculations for buoyancy, stability and subdivision.
  Draft amendments to the Protocol of 1988 relating to the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966, including amendments of a reference in Regulation 22 Scuppers, inlets and discharges and an amendment in Regulation 39 Minimum bow height and reserve buoyancy to define dl as "the draught at 85% of the least moulded depth, in metres".
  Draft amendments to the Dynamically Supported Craft (DSC) Code to update it in line with relevant amendments to SOLAS.
  Draft amendments to the Gas Carrier (GC) Code, to update it in line with certain fire safety requirements in SOLAS.
  Draft amendments to the Revised recommendation on testing of life-saving appliances (resolution MSC.81(70)), including revisions to prototype tests for lifebuoys, lifejackets, immersion suits, anti-exposure suits and thermal protective aids, pyrotechnics - such as rocket parachute flares, hand flares and buoyant smoke signals, liferafts, lifeboats, rescue boats and fast rescue boats, launching and embarkation appliances, position-indicating lights for life-saving appliances and hydrostatic release units; and revisions to production and installation tests for survival craft, launching and stowage arrangements. Also revisions to Appendix 1 on Adult reference test device (RTD) design and construction.

Goal-based new ship construction standards
The MSC is expected to re-establish the Working Group on Goal-based Standards (GBS) for New Ship Construction to further progress the work on the issue.

The Committee is working on the basis of a prescriptive approach for GBS for provisions for hull construction for bulk carriers and oil tankers and a safety level approach for all other ship types.

With regard to hull construction of bulk carriers and oil tankers, the MSC has already agreed on a five-tier system, consisting of 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). Tier I goals and Tier II functional requirements have already been agreed in principle.

The reports of two correspondence groups will be considered by the Working Group, with progress expected during the session in relation to Tier III criteria for the verification of compliance, the establishment of an MSC Group of Experts to carry out such verification, the incorporation of the GBS into IMO instruments, the planned pilot project on verification of IACS's Common Structural Rules in co-operation with IACS, and also the further development of GBS for all other ship types, including the determination of the current level of safety of ships.

Measures to enhance maritime security
Following decisions made during the last session of the Committee, the MSC is expected to start the consideration of issues relating to:

  security aspects of the operation of ships which do not fall within the scope of SOLAS chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code (including cargo ships less than 500 gross tonnage which travel on international routes); and
  security and facilitation issues related to the carriage of closed cargo transport units and of freight containers aboard ships.

In relation to the second issue, the Committee and the Facilitation Committee have agreed to establish a Joint MSC/FAL Working Group which, in its work, will take into account the SAFE Framework of Standards to secure and facilitate global trade (the SAFE Framework of Standards) and the Authorized Economic Operator Guidelines, adopted by the World Customs Organization (WCO) in June 2005 and June 2006, respectively. The SAFE Framework of Standards was developed by WCO in response to a request from the 2002 SOLAS Conference which adopted SOLAS chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code. Notwithstanding the existing provisions in the latter instruments, the Joint Working Group is expected, inter alia, to consider whether there is a need to develop any relevant amendments to the SOLAS and/or FAL Conventions concerning closed cargo transport units and freight containers, to enhance maritime security whilst at the same time facilitating the movement of cargo.

The MSC will also consider proposed draft amendments to the Revised recommendations on the safe transport of dangerous cargoes and related activities in port areas (MSC/Circ.675), to include provisions intended to address the security of the transport of dangerous goods by sea, and draft amendments to the IMO/ILO/UNECE Guidelines for packing of cargo transport units (MSC/Circ.787) to broaden the scope of the guidelines to address the need for vigilance and the need for security procedures to be developed and followed by all concerned. The latter draft amendments, if approved by MSC, will be forwarded to ILO and the UNECE for their consideration and approval.

Long Range Identification and Tracking - technical specifications and guidelines
The MSC will finalize the technical specifications of the components of the Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) System and will consider wider applications of LRIT to safety, especially search and rescue, as well as its implementation. Other important issues to be considered will include the role of performance review and audit of certain aspects of the LRIT system.

The MSC will be invited to consider, for approval, technical specifications and guidelines developed by the ad hoc Working Group on Engineering Aspects of LRIT. The Group has developed draft technical specifications for the International LRIT Data Exchange, the International LRIT Data Centre and for communication within the LRIT System network; draft protocols for the development testing of the LRIT System and for the testing of the integration into the system of new LRIT data centres; and draft guidance on setting up and maintaining the Data Distribution Plan.

The new regulation on LRIT, which is included in SOLAS chapter V on Safety of Navigation, was adopted at the last MSC session in May, along with performance standards. LRIT will be introduced as a mandatory requirement for the following ships on international voyages: passenger ships, including high-speed craft; cargo ships, including high-speed craft, of 300 gross tonnage and upwards; and mobile offshore drilling units. The regulation is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2008 and will apply to ships constructed on or after 31 December 2008 with a phased-in implementation schedule for ships constructed before 31 December 2008. LRIT is intended to be operational with respect to the transmission of LRIT information by ships as from 31 December 2008.

Role of the human element
The Joint MSC/MEPC Working Group on Human Element will meet during the session to consider human element issues, including the report of the Group of Independent Experts established by the Secretary-General to analyze the impact of the ISM Code and its effectiveness in the enhancement of safety of life at sea and protection of the marine environment. It will also consider the report of the Inter-Industry Working Group (IIWG), established to study the reported incidents of explosions on chemical and product carriers; the need for guidelines for abandonment of ships alongside in port, under ISM Code provisions; and a submission on human element research into leadership qualities.

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 the Secretary-General submits his report on those countries whose reports of independent evaluations have been completed since the previous MSC meeting.

Other issues
The MSC will consider other issues arising from the reports of Sub-Committees and other bodies, including:

  Consideration of a proposed draft revised resolution A.888(21) Criteria for the provision of mobile-satellite communication systems in the GMDSS, which sets out the procedure for approving mobile-satellite services for the GMDSS, including important aspects relating to the evaluation, recognition and oversight of future satellite providers.
  Adoption of new and amended traffic separation schemes, including new and amended routeing measures other than traffic separation schemes, as well as new and amended ship reporting systems
  Adoption of revised performance standards for Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS). The aim behind the revision is to ensure the operational reliability of such equipment, taking into account technological progress and experience gained. The proposed revised performance standards are more detailed than the current version and include references to newer equipment such as automatic identification systems. It is proposed that the new revised performance standards would apply to ECDIS equipment installed on or after [1 January 2009] (date to be agreed by the MSC).
  Adoption of Performance Standards for shipborne Galileo Equipment Receiver valid for equipment installed on or after [1 January 2009] (date to be agreed by the MSC).
  Adoption of Guidelines for the design and construction of offshore supply vessels.
  Adoption of amendments to the Guidelines for the transport and handling of limited amounts of hazardous and noxious liquid substances in bulk on offshore support vessels (LHNS Guidelines).
  Adoption of amendments to the Code of safe carriage of cargoes and persons by offshore supply vessels (OSV Code).
  Adoption of amendments to the Code of safe practice for the safe loading and unloading of bulk carriers (BLU Code).

Briefing 47, 27 November 2006

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