Safety Committee responds to concern over vessels in distress

Preview: Maritime Safety Committee – 74th session: 30 May – 8 June 2001

A packed agenda for the 74th meeting of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) will raise a host of safety-related topics, including sheltered waters for vessels in distress, progress on the STCW White List and the safety of large passenger vessels.

The meeting will take place at IMO Headquarters in London from May 30th to June 8th 2001, under the chairmanship of Mr Tom Allen from the United Kingdom.

Sheltered waters – reaction to the Castor

The incident earlier this year in which the salvors of the fully-laden tanker Castor were unable to find a sheltered place to effect cargo transfer and repairs for some 35 days sparked a great deal of concern about the provision of refuge for ships in distress. The Castor had sustained considerable damage in heavy weather and was deemed to present a serious risk of pollution and explosion. At the time, IMO Secretary-General William O’Neil called for a comprehensive review of the whole question of providing shelter for stricken vessels, suggesting that, in the interests of safety of life and environmental protection, coastal States should review their contingency arrangements so that disabled ships could be provided with assistance and facilities appropriate to the circumstances.

The MSC will begin its consideration of the matter at this session, discussing among other things whether the issue should also be referred to the Legal Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee for their attention.

Implementation of the revised STCW Convention

The so-called STCW White List of parties deemed to be giving full and complete effect to the provisions of the revised STCW Convention is set to be updated when Secretary-General William O’Neil submits his report on those countries whose evaluations have been completed since the previous MSC meeting, in November 2000. The MSC will be invited to publish the names of any countries that now qualify to be added to the list.

Fraudulent practices associated with the issuing of certificates of competency and endorsements have been causing great concern throughout the shipping industry. IMO commissioned the Seafarers International Research Centre at Cardiff University in Wales to undertake research into the problem and the Committee will receive an abridged report of the study for consideration. The report will confirm the disturbing fact that evidence of fraudulent practice was found in respect of every type of  certificates issued in accordance with the STCW Convention.

Large passenger ship safety

The safety of large passenger ships was first raised in IMO during the 72nd meeting of the MSC in May 2000, as a result of a personal initiative by Secretary-General William O’Neil. The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) then agreed to undertake a global consideration of safety issues pertaining to these ships and a Working Group on Large Passenger Ship safety began work at the next session of the Committee (MSC 73, in November-December 2000), to review the current safety regime as it relates to large passenger ships.

At this latest session, the MSC will be invited to consider the report of a correspondence group formed to meet between sessions, as well as a variety of submissions by Governments and international organizations aimed at enhancing the safety of large passenger ships. A working group will be once again be established during the session to advise the Committee on any further action needed to be taken on the issue.

Post-“Erika” safety-related issues

The Committee will be informed of decisions of the MEPC 46 relating to the adoption of the revised MARPOL regulation I/13G on the accelerated phase-out of single-hull tankers and of the Condition Assessment Scheme under that regulation.


It will also consider the outcome of the consideration by sub-committees of the issues assigned to them by MSC 73, following the Committee’s consideration of post-Erika safety-related issues, based on the list of items selected by the ad hoc working group at the previous meeting. Proposals for inclusion of new items in the sub-committees’ work programmes will also be considered.

Bulk carrier safety

The Committee will be invited to consider a number of submissions by Governments and international organizations, in particular submissions by the United Kingdom providing the results of a programme of bulk carrier model tests and proposals stemming from the report of the re-opened formal investigation into the loss of the mv Derbyshire. The Committee will also consider the results to date of the various formal safety assessment (FSA) studies on bulk carrier safety being conducted by Members and international organizations. A working group will be established during the session to advise the Committee on any further action needed to be taken on the issue.

Radiocommunications and search and rescue

The Committee will be invited to consider the report of the fifth session of the Communications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR) Sub-Committee.

Among its work items will be to approve a draft COMSAR Circular on the increasing instances of interference between stations in the International NAVTEX Service with adjoining time slots, due to over-running; to approve proposed draft amendments to the Joint IMO/IHO(International Hydrographic Organization)/WMO(World Meteorological Organization) Manual on MSI and instruct the Secretariat to issue the amended Manual as an IMO publication, and to adopt a proposed draft MSC resolution on the adoption of amendments to resolution A.810(19) – Performance standards for float-free satellite emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) operating on 406 MHz.

The MSC will also be asked to approve proposed draft amendments to SOLAS regulation V/21 to make the carriage of Volume III of the IAMSAR (International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue) Manual mandatory, together with the associated draft MSC resolution, for adoption at MSC 75; to adopt proposed draft amendments to the IAMSAR Manual and approve the associated draft MSC circular, and to approve the draft MSC Circular on Guidelines for the preparation of plans for co-operation between search and rescue services and passenger ships, to revoke MSC/Circ.864.

Role of the human element - Formal safety assessment

Against a background of increasing concern about the part played by human factors in maritime casualties, the MSC will reconvene the Joint MSC/MEPC Working Group on the Human Element and Formal Safety Assessment to consider the reports of correspondence groups on Fatigue and on Formal Safety Assessment.

Piracy and armed robbery against ships

With incidents of piracy and armed crime at sea again on the increase, the Committee is set to consider the report on the first meetings in the Asian and Pacific Region as part of the new anti-piracy project and to finalize draft Assembly resolutions on Measures to prevent the Registration of “Phantom” Ships and on a Code of Practice for the investigation of the crimes of piracy and armed robbery against ships. Member Governments will be invited to use the Code when arranging for investigations into such crimes to be conducted under their jurisdiction.


IMO is the United Nations agency concerned with safety of shipping and protection of the marine environment and is concerned with ensuring ships comply with international standards, including financial security. The Maritime Safety Committee is the highest technical body of the Organization. Delegates from all 158 member States may attend.

The main function of the MSC is to consider any matter within the scope of the Organization that directly affects maritime safety. It has the power to adopt amendments to conventions, such as the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS). It is assisted in its work by nine sub-committees which are also open to all Member States.  They deal with the following subjects: Bulk Liquids and Gases, Carriage of Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers, Fire Protection, Radio-communications and Search and Rescue, Safety of Navigation, Ship Design and Equipment, Stability and Load Lines and Fishing Vessel Safety, Standards of Training and Watchkeeping and Flag State Implementation.

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