Sub-Committee develops framework for IMO work on places of refuge

Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation  - 47th session: 2-6 July 2001

IMO’s Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation has agreed a plan of work to address the issue of places of refuge for vessels in need.

The work in the Sub-Committee followed instructions from IMO’s senior technical body, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), which agreed at its 74th session which ended 8 June to look at the problem of places of refuge for ships in distress.

The issue had been raised following the Erika incident of December 1999 but the urgency to deal with the matter was heightened following 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 Sub-Committee agreed draft terms of reference for future work, placing high priority on the safety of all involved in any operation concerning the provision of places of refuge, with due attention to all environmental aspects associated with these operations. Future work should include the preparation of guidelines for:

            1          actions a master of a ship should take when in need of a place of refuge (including actions on board and actions required in seeking assistance from other ships in the vicinity, salvage operators, flag State and coastal States).

            2          the evaluation of risks, including the methodology involved, associated with the provision of places of refuge and relevant operations in both a general and a case by case basis; and

            3          actions expected of coastal States for the identification, designation and provision of such suitable places together with any relevant facilities;

The Sub-Committee agreed the work on the guidelines should focus on three chapters and an annex, covering:

1             General;
2             Action of masters in need of places of refuge;
3             Action expected of coastal States; and
4             Evaluation of risks associated with the provisions of places of refuge.

The Sub-Committee agreed that work should be guided, where appropriate, by resolution A.852(20) (Guidelines for a structure of an integrated system of contingency planning for shipboard emergencies).

It was agreed that the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation would co-ordinate the work, as instructed by the MSC, while input should also come from the Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications, Search and Rescue (COMSAR) and the Marine Environment protection Committee (MEPC).

 New and amended ships routeing measures

The Sub-Committee approved the following new and amended ships routing measures, for submission to MSC 75 in spring 2002 for adoption (and entry into force six months after adoption):

New Traffic Separation Schemes (TSSs)

  • Establishment of new traffic separation schemes off the Mediterranean coast of Egypt.

Amendments to existing Traffic Separation Schemes (TSSs)

  • Extension to the Deep-Water Route "DW 17 m" southward into the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) "South of Gedser", proposed by Denmark and Germany.  Due to a number of recent groundings and collisions in the area and because of the expected deep draft traffic through this route, the Sub-Committee agreed this measure constituted an urgent case. Denmark and Germany will therefore implement the extended deep-water route as an interim measure to become effective 6 January 2002, in advance of final adoption by the MSC in spring 2002.
  • Modifications to the Ouessant traffic separation scheme to enhance maritime safety in the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel, proposed by France.
  • Amendments to the existing traffic separation scheme “In the Approaches to Los Angeles – Long Beach”, proposed by United States.
  • Amendments to the existing traffic separation schemes (TSSs) “In the Strait of Juan De Fuca and Its Approaches, “In Puget Sound and Its Approaches”, and to add TSSs and other routeing measures  “In Haro Strait, Boundary Pass, and in the Strait of Georgia”, proposed by United States and Canada .  The TSSs “In the Strait of Juan De Fuca and Its Approaches” were adopted by IMO on April 3, 1981, and implemented on January 1, 1982.  The TSSs “In Puget Sound and Its Approaches” were adopted by IMO in December 1992, and implemented on June 10, 1993.
  • Amendments to the existing traffic separation scheme in the Gulf of Finland which is located in the territorial waters of the Russian Federation (adopted by resolution A.284(VIII) on 20 November 1973) and the establishment of a new deep-water route in connection with the coming into operation of the new oil port of Primorsk, as proposed by the Russian Federation. The Sub-Committee agreed this was also an urgent measure which justified an interim measure. The Russian Federation stated it would implement the measure from 1 November 2001, pending final adoption by the MSC in spring 2002.

Routeing measures other than TSSs

  • Establishment of three mandatory no anchoring areas in the area of Tortugas. This forms part of a proposal to identify the marine area around the Florida Keys as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA), proposed by the United States.
  • Amendment of the northernmost Area to be Avoided (ATBA) off the Florida Coast, which is also part of the proposal to identify the marine area around the Florida Keys as a PSSA, proposed by the United States.
  • Amendment to the Area to be Avoided (ATBA) “Off the Washington Coast” to increase its size and extend its applicability to commercial ships of 1,600 gross tonnage and above, proposed by the United States.
  • New routeing measures for an Area to be Avoided around Malpelo Island. Proposed by Colombia. This forms part of a proposal to designate the area around Malpelo Island as a PSSA.
  • A new recommended two-way route in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, proposed by the United States.
  • New “precautionary area” around the Terra Nova Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel located on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, proposed by Canada. 
  • Amendments to the notes in the description of the two existing Areas to be Avoided (ATBAs) in the region of the Shetland Islands, proposed by the United Kingdom. The new wording extends the application of the area to be avoided to tankers in ballast, stating ”… all vessels over 5,000 gross tonnage, carrying, or capable of carrying oil or other hazardous cargoes in bulk should avoid the area….”

Mandatory ship reporting systems

  • Establishment of a mandatory ship reporting system in Greenland Waters in accordance with the provisions of SOLAS regulation V/8-1, proposed by Denmark.
  • Amendment to the existing mandatory ship reporting system "Off Ushant", proposed by France.

Draft PSSA guidelines approved

The Sub-Committee endorsed the revised draft Assembly resolution on Guidelines for the Identification and Designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas for submission to the 22nd Assembly in November for adoption. The revised resolution will replace resolutions A.885(21) and A.720(17).

Draft AIS guidelines finalised

The Sub-Committee finalised draft guidelines for the onboard operational use of shipborne Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) for submission to the 22nd session of the Assembly in November for adoption.

Interim guidelines on AIS information presentation and display agreed

The Sub-Committee agreed, for dissemination, a SN (Safety of Navigation) Circular on Interim guidelines for the presentations and display of AIS target information. The Circular is intended to provide information to  allow manufacturers to timely develop the relevant equipment and functions and to allow mariners to acquaint themselves with the use of intelligent combination of information from the first date of AIS implementation.

Draft Guidelines for the recording of events related to navigation

The Sub-Committee finalized Draft Guidelines for the recording of events related to navigation for submission to the 22nd session of the Assembly for adoption.

The draft guidelines are intended to support regulation 28 of the revised chapter V of SOLAS (adopted in December 2000 and entering into force on 1 July 2002 under the tacit acceptance procedure). The regulation states that “All ships engaged on international voyages shall keep on board a record of navigational activities and incidents which are of importance to safety of navigation and which must contain sufficient detail to restore a complete record of the voyage, taking into account the recommendations adopted by the Organization.  When such information is not maintained in the ship's log-book, it shall be maintained in another form approved by the Administration.”

Draft Guidelines on voyage data recorders (VDR) ownership and recovery

The Sub-Committee agreed Draft Guidelines on voyage data recorder (VDR) ownership and recovery for submission to MSC 75 in spring 2002, pending comments from the Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation.

The draft guidelines cover:

  • Ownership of the VDR – The ship owner owns the VDR and its data.
  • Recovery of the VDR  - Recovery of the VDRs is conditional on the accessibility of the VDR or the data contained within.  In non-catastrophic incidences, recovery should be straightforward. In catastrophic accidents, a decision must be taken on viability and cost of recovering VDR against potential use of the information.
  • Custody of VDR/data  - In all circumstances, during an investigation, the investigator should have custody of the original VDR data.
  • Read-out of VDR/data  - Responsibility to arrange downloading and read-out of data would be undertaken by investigator who would keep ship owner fully informed.
  • Access to data  - A copy of the data must be provided to the ship owner.

Feasibility study of mandatory carriage of VDRs on existing cargo ships

The Sub-Committee’s Technical Working Group reviewed submissions relating to the Feasibility study of mandatory carriage of VDRs on existing cargo ships and the Sub-Committee agreed that the outcome of the discussions would be forwarded to the next session of the Sub-Committee, NAV 48, scheduled for July 2002.

The MSC in December 2000 at its 73rd session adopted a resolution on the carriage of VDRs on existing cargo ships, which calls for a feasibility study to be carried out to ascertain the need for mandatory carriage of VDRs on these ships. The feasibility study will take into account such factors as practicability, technical problems relating to the retrofitting of VDRs, adequacy of existing performance standards including the possible development of simplified standards, experience in the use of VDRs on ships already fitted with them, including data that could not have been obtained without VDRs, and relevant financial implications, including a cost-benefit analysis.

The aim is to finalize the study by January 2004 so that, if the study demonstrates a compelling need for mandatory carriage of VDRs on existing cargo ships, relevant amendments to SOLAS Chapter V and the associated performance standards can be drafted.  In the meantime, the resolution invites Governments to encourage shipowners to install VDRs on existing cargo ships voluntarily, so that wide experience of their use may be gained.

Measures aimed at eliminating sub-standard oil tankers

The Sub-Committee discussed specific measures aimed at eliminating sub-standard oil tankers referred to it by the MSC and MEPC in the wake of the Erika incident.

The specific measures were:

  • Consider whether there is a need to develop additional requirements for the proper handling of ships and prudent seamanship in adverse weather conditions; and
  • Consider what additional safety measures may be necessary for ships navigating in narrow waterways and/or areas of dense traffic.

The Sub-Committee agreed that for the time being there was no need to develop additional measures relating to the proper handling of ships in adverse weather conditions.

The Sub-Committee also felt that part of the safety measures for ships navigating in narrow waterways and/or areas of dense traffic were already being addressed by the Ships’ Routeing Working Group, which met at each session of the Sub-Committee to discuss ships’ routeing issues. Nonetheless, work being carried out by the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) on operational procedures, risk analysis, pilotage, VTS and AIS issues for confined waterways could provide a basis for future work, and IALA was invited to inform the Sub-committee accordingly.

Revision of resolution A.815(19) on World-Wide radionavigation system

The Sub-Committee agreed to a draft revised resolution A.815(19) on World-Wide radionavigation system including changes to its Appendix, introducing up-dates to the operational requirements for radionavigation systems for ocean, coastal and harbour approach and entrance phases of a ship’s voyage.

The aim is for submission to MSC 75 for approval and subsequent adoption at the twenty‑third session of the Assembly in 2003.

Performance standards for bridge navigational watch alarms agreed

The Sub-Committee agreed draft Performance standards for a bridge navigational watch alarm system (BNWAS), for submission to MSC 75 for approval and adoption.

Maritime pilots – resolution revised

The Sub-Committee agreed to a revised annex 2 of resolution A.485(XII) adopted in 1981 on Training, qualifications and operational procedures for maritime pilots other than deep-sea pilots. The revised annex 2 will be forwarded to the Sub-Committee eon Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW) to enable the STW Sub-Committee to complete the task of revising annex 1 of the resolution.