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

Safety committee responds to concern over vessels in distress

IMO’s Member Governments have pledged to tackle the issue of providing places of refuge to vessels in distress as matter of priority.

The decision by IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) to look at the problem comes in the wake of 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. The incident sparked a great deal of concern about the provision of refuge for ships in distress.

The MSC met for its 74th session at IMO Headquarters in London from May 30th to June 8th 2001, under the chairmanship of Mr Tom Allan from the United Kingdom. Other issues on a packed agenda included the updating of the STCW “White List” and the safety of large passenger vessels.

Places of refuge – reaction to the Castor

The MSC agreed to instruct the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation (NAV) to begin considering the issue of places of refuge at its 47th session in July 2001.

Over the next two years, the NAV Sub-Committee is expected to work in co-operation with the Sub-Committee on Radio-Communications, Search and Rescue (COMSAR) and the Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Equipment (DE) with a view to developing guidelines to help States and masters deal with a situation in which a ship in distress seeks a place of refuge. The proposed guidelines might cover the following aspects

  1. action expected from coastal States providing “places of refuge” to ships in distress;
  2. the evaluation of risks associated with the provision of places of refuge; and
  3. action masters of ships in distress should take when in need of “places of refuges” (including action on board and action required by other ships in their vicinity, salvage operators and coastal States).

The issue of places of refuge was highlighted as one of many issues for further action in the wake of the Erika incident in December 1999, but it was the Castor incident early this year which brought the issue to the fore.

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 noted that the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) had already discussed the issue and agreed to also bring the issue to the attention of the Legal Committee for consideration of any matters relating to international law, jurisdiction, rights of coastal States, liability, insurance, bonds, etc. (See also separate briefing 16/2001)

White List updated

The so-called “White List” of countries deemed to be properly implementing the revised STCW Convention (STCW 95) has been updated after the MSC received reports from IMO Secretary-General Mr. O’Neil confirming that a further 23 Member States had communicated information demonstrating that they were giving “full and complete effect” to the relevant provisions of the Convention. The “White List” now comprises 94 Member States and one Associate Member. (See separate briefing 15/2001)

A proposal to hold an extraordinary session of the MSC during the Assembly in November will be put forward to the Council in June to deal with STCW matters. The aim of the extraordinary MSC session would be to consider specifically reports by the Secretary-General on evaluations of information communicated which may have been completed in the period between MSC 74 and the Assembly.

The MSC also approved an MSC circular giving Guidance on the preparation and review of independent evaluations required by STCW regulation I/8 and Section A-I/7 of the STCW Code.

The requirements of regulation I/8 entered into force on 1 February 1997 and section A‑I/8 of the STCW Code requires an independent evaluation of the quality standards system to be conducted at intervals of not more than 5 years.  Under the provisions of section A-I/7, paragraph 4, the report of such evaluation shall be made within 6 months of its completion and, as required by paragraph 8, shall be considered by competent persons. Therefore, the reports of such evaluation should be made by 1 August 2002 or, for Parties with an entry within force date after 1 February 1992, within 5 years and 6 months from that date. The circular gives guidance on preparation of this report.

Fraudulent practices associated with certificates of competency and endorsements

The MSC reviewed an abridged version of the IMO-commissioned research into Unlawful practices associated with certificates of competency carried out by the Seafarers International Research Centre at Cardiff University in Wales.

The report confirms the disturbing fact that evidence of fraudulent practice was found in respect of every type of certificate issued in accordance with the STCW Convention.

The full version of the report will be submitted to the Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping at its 33rd session scheduled for January 2002. The MSC expressed deep concern at the study’s findings and agreed that the Sub-Committee should consider whether the subject should become a permanent item on its work-programme, in view of the seriousness of the problem.

As a first step in its response to the problem, IMO  has added a facility to its website to enable users to contact certificate-issuing authorities to check the validity of certificates of competency.  The IMO website section on certificate verification provides a gateway to those authorities and, at this stage of its development, users can send emails via the IMO website to the certificate-issuing authority or, alternatively, obtain telephone, fax or postal contact details. 

Large passenger ship safety

The Working Group on Large Passenger Ship Safety met during the session and developed an updated work plan, which was approved by the Committee.

With regard to matters which affect both existing and future large passenger ships, the Committee reaffirmed the view that efforts affecting existing large passenger ships would continue to focus primarily on matters related to the human element such as operations, management and training, taking into account that this would not preclude consideration of equipment and arrangements issues for such ships if deemed appropriate.

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.

The MSC also re-established the intersessional Correspondence Group on Large Passenger Ship Safety to review the work plan and indicate which tasks should be accomplished by the Committee/Sub-Committees.

Review of fast rescue boat and means-of-rescue requirements

The MSC agreed that a study of fast rescue boats and means-of-rescue requirements should be undertaken, following reports of many accidents and near-accidents as a result of trials and drills involving the launching and recovery of fast rescue boats and means of rescue that have been fitted to date aboard ro-ro passenger ships.

The Ship Design and Equipment (DE) and the Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW) Sub-Committees will undertake a review of the arrangement, specification, testing and operation of fast rescue boats and means of rescue, and the training of the relevant crew members. The study may result in revised requirements and recommendations relating to SOLAS chapter III, the LSA (Life-Saving Appliances) Code and the Revised Recommendation on testing of life-saving appliances.

In the interim, the MSC approved an MSC Circular on the application of SOLAS regulation III/26 concerning fast rescue boats and means-of-rescue systems on ro-ro passenger ships.

Regulation III/26 of the 1996 SOLAS amendments, which entered into force on 1 July 1998, requires all ro-ro passenger ships to be fitted with a fast rescue boat and a means of rescue not later than the first periodical survey after 1 July 2000. As the study to review fast rescue boats and means of rescue will take at least two years to complete, the Circular recommends that, in the meantime, due caution is exercised when installing, testing, launching and operating fast rescue boats and means of rescue.

Post-Erika safety-related issues

The Committee was 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.

The MSC considered 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. A number of the measures were included as new items in the relevant sub-committees’ work programmes.

Bulk carrier safety

The Committee approved an MSC Circular giving advice on the dangers of flooding of forward compartments of bulk carriers. The Circular refers to the recommendations of the United Kingdom Report of the re-opened formal investigation into the loss of the mv Derbyshire and is aimed at making sure masters are fully aware of the possible dangerous consequences of water entry into forward spaces and consequent reduction of freeboard.

The MSC was updated on formal safety assessment (FSA) studies on bulk carrier safety being conducted by Members and international organizations and agreed that once all the current FSA studies have been completed, the resulting recommendations for implementation should be collated for comparative analysis and validation prior to initiating the necessary regulatory action.

The FSA studies to date include:

  • International collaborative FSA study being co-ordinated by the United Kingdom.  The United Kingdom delegation stated that it was expected that Step 3 (Risk control options) would be finalized by September 2001 and Step 4 (Cost/benefit assessment) would be initiated in the autumn and completed in time to prepare an interim report for submission to MSC 75 in May 2002.  A final report would be submitted to MSC 76 in December 2002.
  • Japanese FSA study on bulk carrier safety, encompassing certain types of bulk carriers. A final report with definitive recommendations is expected to be submitted to MSC 75.
  • Trial application of FSA methodology to No.1 cargo hold flooding and hatchway watertight integrity of bulk carriers carried out by the Republic of Korea (completed).
  • FSA study on fore-end watertight integrity of bulk carriers carried out by the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) (completed).
  • FSA of life-saving appliances for bulk carriers conducted by Norway and International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), containing final recommendations for decision-making (Completed).

Radiocommunications and search and rescue

The MSC adopted amendments to resolution A.810(19) – Performance standards for float‑free satellite emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) operating on 406 MHz.

The MSC approved proposed draft amendments to SOLAS regulation V/21 to make the carriage of Volume III of the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual aboard ships mandatory. It is intended to adopt the amendments at MSC 75.

The IAMSAR Manual – jointly developed by IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) - is published in three volumes covering Organization and Management; Mission Co-ordination; and Mobile Facilities. The MSC also adopted amendments to the IAMSAR Manual. The amendments had already been approved by ICAO.

The MSC approved an 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.

The MSC approved COMSAR/Circ.28 on the International NAVTEX Service relating to the increasing instances of interference between stations in the International NAVTEX Service with adjoining time slots, due to over-running. NAVTEX is an international, automated system for instantly distributing maritime navigational warnings, weather forecasts and warnings, search and rescue notices and similar information to ships.

The MSC also approved amendments to the Joint IMO/International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)/ World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Manual on MSI (Maritime Safety Information) and instructed the Secretariat to issue the amended Manual as an IMO publication.

The MSC also approved a draft Assembly resolution on acceptance and implementation of the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979, as amended for submission to the 22nd Assembly in November 2001 for adoption. The resolution urges States that have not yet become Parties to the SAR Convention to do so at the earliest possible time. It also urges Governments to establish the basic elements of a SAR service.

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 Joint MSC/MEPC Working Group on the Human Element and Formal Safety Assessment considered the reports of correspondence groups on Fatigue and on Formal Safety Assessment.

Fatigue Guidance approved

The MSC approved Guidance on Fatigue Mitigation and Management, developed by the correspondence group on Fatigue and finalised by the working group during the session. The Guidance  - over 104 detailed pages – includes Guidelines on Fatigue, divided into modules, each addressing the different parties that have a direct impact on vessel safety - naval architects/ship designers, owners/operators, Masters, officers, other crew members and training institutions.

These modules are:

1.      Module 1               Fatigue
2.      Module 2               Fatigue and the Rating
3.      Module 3               Fatigue and the Ship’s Officer
4.      Module 4               Fatigue and the Master
5.      Module 5               Fatigue and the Training Institution and Management Personnel in charge of Training
6.      Module 6               Shipboard Fatigue and the Owner/Operator/Manager
7.      Module 7               Shipboard Fatigue and the Naval Architect
8.      Module 8               Fatigue and the Maritime Pilot
9.      Module 9               Fatigue and Tugboat Personnel
        
Appendix               Fatigue related documentation

FSA Guidelines approved

The MSC approved a draft MSC/MEPC circular on Guidelines for formal safety assessment (FSA) for use in the IMO rule-making process. The circular is expected to be given final approval by the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) at its forty-seventh session (scheduled for 4 to 8 March 2002).

FSA is a structured and systematic methodology, aimed at enhancing maritime safety, including protection of life, health, the marine environment and property, by using risk and cost/benefit assessments.

Interim guidelines on the use of FSA were previously approved in 1997 and issued as MSC/Circ.829-MEPC/Circ.335

Guidance on HEAP and FSA approved

The MSC also approved a draft MSC/MEPC circular on Guidance on the use of the Human Element Analysing Process (HEAP) and Formal Safety Assessment (FSA) in the IMO rule-making process. The circular includes a section explaining the difference between HEAP and FSA and Guidance for practical application of FSA to the IMO rule-making process. Interim Guidelines on the use of HEAP were previously issued as MSC/Circ.878-MEPC/Circ.346 in 1998.

HEAP is a practical tool, designed to address the human element, to be used for consideration of maritime safety and environmental protection issues at IMO. It consists of a practical and non-scientific checklist to assist regulators in ensuring that human element aspects related to the ship and its equipment, the master and crew, training, management ashore and on board, and work environment conditions have been taken into consideration when introducing or amending IMO instruments.

Reporting near misses – Circular approved

The MSC approved an MSC Circular on Reporting Near Misses, which encourages Member Governments to promote a no-blame culture and to encourage the reporting of near misses so that remedial measures can be taken to avoid recurrence.

Piracy and armed robbery against ships

The number of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships reported to the IMO during 2000 was up by more than 50 per cent over the equivalent figure for 1999, the MSC was told.

The Committee recognized that the maritime community could no longer tolerate this situation and the serious repercussions it has on the safety of passengers and crews and therefore, once again, invited all Governments (of flag, port and coastal States) and the industry to intensify their efforts to eradicate these unlawful acts.

The Committee approved draft Assembly resolutions on the Code of Practice for the Investigation of the Crimes of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships and on Measures to prevent the registration of “phantom ships” for submission to the twenty-second session of the Assembly in November of this year, for adoption.

The Committee received a report on the second phase of the IMO anti-piracy project to evaluate and assess the situation in piracy-infested areas of the world and was informed that the United Nations Secretariat had begun an ‘open-ended’ Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS) to consider the issue of maritime piracy with the prospect of drafting appropriate text for submission to the UN General Assembly. 

(See also separate briefing 17/2001)

Trafficking or transport of illegal migrants by sea

The MSC Approved amendments to MSC/Circ.896 on interim measures for combating unsafe practices associated with the trafficking or transport of illegal migrants by sea. The editorial amendments include a footnote indicating clearly that carrying a large number of migrants on board a cargo ship, limited to 12 passengers, and operating voyages, which are substantially international voyages, constitutes an automatic infringement to the SOLAS Convention. The amendments also note that it is not contrary to UNCLOS to request a flag State to authorize a warship of another State to visit a vessel. The Committee also invited Member Governments to sign and ratify the 2000 United Nations Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air at their earliest convenience to achieve its earliest possible entry into force

Adoption of amendments

The MSC:

  • Adopted amendments to SOLAS Chapter VII – Carriage of Dangerous Goods  - and to the International Code for the Safe Carriage of Packaged Irradiated Nuclear Fuel, Plutonium and High-Level Radioactive Wastes on Board Ships (INF Code) to align them with Amendment 30 to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.
  • Adopted amendments to the International Code of Safety for High-Speed Craft (1994 HSC Code) to bring the provisions for navigational equipment of the 1994 HSC Code in line with the relevant provisions of the 2000 HSC Code (which enters into force on 1 July 2002 for ships built after that date). In particular the amendments relate to carriage of voyage data recorders and carriage of automatic identification systems (AIS).

Draft amendments approved

The MSC approved draft amendments to revised SOLAS regulation II-1/12-2 on Access to and within spaces in the cargo area of oil tankers and bulk carriers, for submission to MSC 75 for consideration with a view to adoption.

Draft resolutions approved

The MSC approved, for submission to the 22nd Assembly in November 2001 for adoption:

  • A draft Assembly resolution on Standard Marine Communication Phrases. The resolution adopts the SMCP and recommends a wide circulation to all prospective users and all maritime education authorities.
  • A draft Assembly resolution on Self-assessment of flag State performance (to revoke resolution A.881(21)).
  • A draft Assembly resolution on Revised guidelines on the implementation of the ISM Code by Administrations, for submission to the 22nd Assembly in November 2001 for adoption.
  • A draft Assembly resolution on acceptance and implementation of the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979, as amended.
  • A draft Assembly resolution on Measures to further strengthen flag State implementation.

List of Circulars approved by MSC 74

MSC circulars

MSC/Circ.995          Advice on the dangers of flooding of forward compartments

MSC/Circ.996          Parties to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as amended, confirmed by the Maritime Safety Committee to have communicated information which demonstrates that full and complete effect is given to the relevant provisions of the Convention

MSC/Circ.997          Guidance on preparation and review of independent evaluations required by STCW regulation I/8 and section A-I/7 of the STCW Code

MSC/Circ.998          IACS Unified Interpretation regarding timber deck cargo in the context of damage stability requirements

MSC/Circ.999          Amendments to the IAMSAR Manual

MSC/Circ.1000        Guidelines for the preparation of plans for co-operation between search and rescue services and passenger ships

MSC/Circ.1001        Interim Guidelines for a simplified evaluation analysis of high-speed passenger craft

MSC/Circ1002         Guidelines on alternative design and arrangements for fire safety

MSC/Circ.1003        Guidelines on a simplified calculation for the total amount of combustible materials per unit area in accommodation and service spaces

MSC/Circ.1004        Unified interpretations of the International Code for Application of Fire Test Procedures (FTP Code) and fire test procedures referred to in the Code

MSC/Circ.1005        Unified interpretations of vague expressions and other vague wording of SOLAS chapter II-2

MSC/Circ.1006        Guidelines on fire test procedures for acceptance of fire-retardant materials for the construction of lifeboats

MSC/Circ.1007        Guidelines for the approval of fixed aerosol fire-extinguishing systems equivalent to fixed gas fire-extinguishing systems, as referred to in SOLAS 74, for machinery spaces

MSC/Circ.1008        Revisions to interpretations of the International Code for Application of Fire Test Procedures (FTP Code) and fire test procedures referred to in the Code (MSC/Circ.916)

MSC/Circ.1009        Amendments to the Revised Standards for the design, testing and locating of devices to prevent the passage of flame into cargo tanks in tankers (MSC/Circ.677)

MSC/Circ.1010        Communication of information on authorization of recognized organizations

MEPC/Circ.382        (ROs)

MSC/Circ.1011/        Measures to improve port State control procedures
MEPC/Circ.383

MSC/Circ.1012        Endorsement of certificates with the date of completion of the survey on

MEPC/Circ.384        which they are based

MSC/Circ.1013        Interim application of paragraphs 4.6.1.1, 4.6.2.2 and 15.7 of the Survey Guidelines under the Harmonized System of Survey and Certification (resolution A.746(18))

MSC/Circ.1014        Guidance on fatigue mitigation and management

MSC/Circ.1015        Reporting near misses

MSC/Circ.1016        Application of SOLAS regulation III/26 concerning fast rescue boats and means of rescue systems on ro-ro passenger ships

MSC/Circ.1017        Participation in the World Meteorological Organization Voluntary Observing Ships’ (VOS) Scheme

Other circulars

STCW.7/Circ.10       Interim Guidance on training and assessment in the operational use of the electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS) simulators

STCW.7/Circ.11       Guidance to Parties on the application of the Standard Marine Communication Phrases, as required by section A-II/1 of the STCW Code

COMSAR/Circ.28    International NAVTEX Service

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