High-speed craft (HSC) include, among others, air-cushion vehicles (such as hovercraft) and hydrofoil boats.

With the development of many new types of HSC in the 1980s and 1990s, IMO decided to adopt new international regulations dealing with the special needs of this type of vessel. In 1994, IMO adopted the International Code of Safety for High-Speed Craft (HSC Code) (resolution MSC.36 (63), which was developed following a revision of the Code of Safety of Dynamically Supported Craft (resolution A.373(X)).

Also in 1994, IMO adopted a new SOLAS chapter X - Safety measures for high-speed craft, which makes the HSC Code mandatory high-speed craft built on or after 1 January 1996. The Chapter was adopted in May 1994 and entered into force on 1 January 1996.

The HSC Code applies to high-speed craft engaged on international voyages, including passenger craft which do not proceed for more than four hours at operational speed from a place of refuge when fully laden and cargo craft of 500 gross tonnage and above which do not go more than eight hours from a port of refuge. The Code requires that all passengers are provided with a seat and that no enclosed sleeping berths are provided for passengers.

The Code is intended to be a complete set of comprehensive requirements for high-speed craft, including equipment and conditions for operation and maintenance. A basic aim is to provide levels of safety which are equivalent to those contained in SOLAS and the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966. The HSC Code includes very detailed requirements such that a high-speed craft deemed to be in compliance with the Code is therefore deemed to be in complaince with SOLAS chapters I to IV and regulation V(12) (Shipborne navigational equipment). Of course, HSC must comply with any other applicable requirements in SOLAS - such as the ISM Code - and other international conventions.

Due to rapid pace of development in the HSC sector, in December 2000, the Maritime Safety Committee adopted amendments to SOLAS chapter X to make mandatory for new ships the High-Speed Craft Code 2000. The 2000 HSC Code updates the 1994 HSC Code and applies to all HSC built after the date of entry into force, 1 July 2002. The original Code will continue to apply to high-speed craft built before that date.

The changes incorporated in the 2000 Code are intended to bring it into line with amendments to SOLAS and new recommendations that have been adopted in the past four years - for example, requirements covering public address systems and helicopter pick-up areas.

There is provision in the Codes that they shall be reviewed at intervals preferably not exceeding four years in order to consider a revision of the existing requirements to take account of new developments in design and technology. Current on-going revision work is expected to be finalized in 2006 which means that the formal adoption of the amendments could take place at the end of 2006 with an expected entry into force in 2008.

Further information

International Regulations for High-Speed craft an overview – St Petersburg, Russia, June 2005. Article by Mrs Heike Hoppe.
The paper presents an overview of the international regulations in force concerning high-speed craft, i.e. the Code of Safety for Dynamically Supported Craft (DSC Code) and the International Codes of Safety for High-Speed Craft 1994 and 2000. The historical background of the development of regulations for high-speed craft is briefly highlighted and the technical contents of the Codes are described. The status of the Codes, i.e. mandatory or recommendatory, is explained, together with their association with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 1974. Finally, on-going work in IMO regarding the review of the Codes and the preparation of appropriate amendments is outlined.