IMO Sub-Committee acts on ERIKA incident

Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation - 46th session: 10-14 July 2000

New mandatory ship-reporting system in English Channel approved

    IMO's Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation has approved a new mandatory ship-reporting system which would be applicable in the central English Channel, making it easier to track and communicate with ships in the area. The system would supplement the existing mandatory ship-reporting systems already established at Ouessant and in the Pas de Calais.

    The system will be put forward to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) at its 73rd session in November-December 2000 for adoption and would enter into force at 0000 hours UTC, six months after its adoption by the Committee.

    The proposal for the new mandatory ship-reporting system follows the sinking of the tanker Erika off the west coast of France in December 1999 and should make possible a significant increase in safety, efficiency of navigation and environmental protection in and around the traffic separation system in operation off Les Casquets.

    Under mandatory ship-reporting systems, ships are obliged to give information about themselves, including their identity and cargo, to coastal authorities. Authorities can then track voyages and communicate with ships immediately should a dangerous situation, such as risk of collision or grounding, arise. Outside mandatory reporting systems, coastal authorities may only be aware of blips on radar screens - with no further information on the particular ship.

    The implementation of a mandatory ship-reporting system makes it easier to avert hazardous situations which can be caused by unidentified ships adopting erratic or even dangerous routes, stopping in a traffic lane after sustaining damage, or otherwise behaving in a manner which could give rise to confusion in the absence of information.

    The new system, to be called MANCHEREP, would apply to all ships of over 300 gross tonnage and would cover the current traffic separation system off Les Casquets and the areas bordering upon it. Ships over 300 gross tonnage entering the area would be required to give information to the coastal authorities, including name of ship, position, destination and details of cargo if any potentially dangerous cargoes are carried on board. Coastal authorities would then be able to track the ships.

    Currently, vessel traffic service (VTS) centres located at Corsen, Jobourg and Gris-Nez monitor the traffic separation schemes (TSS) of Ouessant, les Casquets and the Pas de Calais respectively, together with the surrounding areas. Mandatory ship-reporting systems were put in place at Ouessant in 1996 (OUESSREP) and in the Pas de Calais in 1999 (CALDOVREP).

    The proposed mandatory ship-reporting system "Off Les Casquets and the adjacent coastal area", would be based on the Jobourg VTS, which has been monitoring shipping in the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) off Les Casquets and the surrounding area since 1983. The system will replace the voluntary MAREP reporting system in place in the area.

    Some 300 ships pass through the area every day but the identification rate is just slightly above 40%. Setting up a mandatory reporting system will enable the rate to be increased significantly. Ships under 300 gross tonnage are recommended to make reports on a voluntary basis.

    IMO Secretary-General Mr. William A. O'Neil, in his opening remarks to the Sub-Committee, noted that the proposal from France and the United Kingdom for the mandatory ship reporting system stemmed from the tanker Erika accident off the Western coast of France in December last year. Since then, the Government of France had been considering various measures to reduce the likelihood of similar incidents occurring around its coasts and to strengthen the safety of navigation and marine environmental protection.

    Mr. O'Neil expressed his appreciation to France and other countries for bringing their proposals to IMO, stressing that IMO "is the right and only place where issues concerning international shipping safety and environmental protection should be discussed and resolved".

"No-anchoring area" approved as new ships routeing measure

    The Sub-Committee approved a proposal to allow "no-anchoring areas" to be incorporated into the General Provisions on Ships' Routeing. This would mean that no-anchoring areas should be adopted in areas where anchoring is unsafe, unstable, hazardous, or it is particularly important to avoid damage to the marine environment, and therefore anchoring should be avoided by all ships or certain classes of ships.

    The amendments to the General Provisions on Ships’ Routeing (resolution A.572(14), as amended) to add "No-anchoring area" as a new ships routeing measure will be put forward to MSC 73 for adoption, subject to confirmation by the 22nd Assembly in 2001.

"No-anchoring area" on Flower Garden Banks Coral reefs approved

    The Sub-Committee approved the establishment of three mandatory no-anchoring areas on coral reef banks (Flower Garden Banks) in the north-western Gulf of Mexico.

    The proposed measure, to be applicable to all ships, is expected to reduce significantly the risk of damage to the coral marine environment by ships, without restricting the sea area available for navigation. The size of the areas and the proposed measures are limited to what is essential for the interests of safe navigation and the protection of the marine environment.

New TSSs along the Peruvian Coast approved

    The Sub-Committee approved four new traffic separation schemes along the Peruvian coast, for adoption by MSC 73:

1     Landfall and approaches to Talara Bay;
2     Landfall Off Puerto Salaverry;
3     Landfall and approaches to Ferrol Bay (Puerto Chimbote); and
4     Landfall and approaches to San Nicolas Bay.

New TSS in Humber approaches approved

    The Sub-Committee approved the establishment of new traffic separation schemes and associated routeing measures in the approaches to the River Humber on the east coast of England to cope with the increase in the volume of maritime traffic.

Amendments to existing TSS in Prince William Sound approved

    The Sub-Committee approved amendments to the existing traffic separation scheme in Prince William Sound (United States). The proposed amendments would reduce the potential for traffic congestion in the area and contribute to improving vessel traffic management and safety.

Standard Marine Communication Phrases approved

    The Sub-Committee approved draft revised Standard Marine Communication Phrases (SMCP), intended to replace the Standard Marine Navigational Vocabulary (SMNV) adopted by IMO in 1977 (and amended in 1985).

    The SMNV was developed for use by seafarers, following agreement that a common language - namely English - should be established for navigational purposes where language difficulties arise and the SMCP has been developed as a more comprehensive standardized safety language, taking into account changing conditions in modern seafaring and covering all major safety-related verbal communication.

    The SMCP has been undergoing trials by governments, maritime training institutes and others involved in maritime communications following approval of the first draft version by the MSC in 1997.

    The SMCP includes phrases which have been developed to cover the most important safety-related fields of verbal shore-to-ship (and vice-versa), ship-to-ship and on-board communications. The aim is to get round the problem of language barriers at sea and avoid misunderstandings which can cause accidents.

    The SMCP builds on a basic knowledge of English and has been drafted in a simplified version of maritime English. It includes phrases for use in routine situations such as berthing as well as standard phrases and responses for use in emergency situations.

    Under the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as revised in1995, the ability to understand and use the SMCP is required for the certification of officers in charge of a navigational watch on ships of 500 gross tonnage or above.

    The SMCP will be presented to the 22nd session of the IMO Assembly in 2001 for adoption, after approval by the MSC, following clarification by the Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW) on whether the SMCP meets requirements in the STCW Code (Table A-II/1) and review by the Sub-Committee on Radio-Communications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR).

Draft amendments to COLREGs approved

    The Sub-Committee approved draft amendments to the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREGs), to be put forward to MSC 73 for adoption and to the 22nd IMO Assembly in November 2001 for final adoption. The amendments concern:

whistles and sound signals (Rules 33 and 35);
action to avoid collision (Rule 8 (a)) - to make it clear that any action to avoid collision should be taken in accordance with the relevant rules in the COLREGs;
amendments with respect to high-speed craft (relating to the vertical separation of masthead lights); and
amendments with relation to Wing-In-Ground (WIG) craft, to include a rule that WIG craft should keep well clear of all other vessels and another rule that WIG craft should exhibit a high-intensity all-round flashing red light when taking off, landing and in-flight near the surface.

Other issues

The Sub-Committee also:

Prepared a draft MSC Circular on Guidelines on Ergonomic Criteria for Bridge Equipment and Layout for submission to the MSC for approval.
Agreed on a draft revision of resolution A.860(20) Maritime policy for a future global navigation satellite system (GNSS) to update the user requirements for general navigation and positioning and introduce user requirements for non-general navigation and positioning.
Agreed new and amended performance standards, for adoption by the MSC, for:

- shipborne global positioning system (GPS) receiver equipment;
- shipborne GLONASS receiver equipment;
- shipborne DGPS and DGLONASS maritime radio beacon receiver equipment;
- shipborne combined GPS/GLONASS receiver equipment; and
- marine transmitting heading devices (THDs).

Agreed in principle draft Guidelines on the operational use of shipborne automatic identification systems (AIS), for review by the MSC and subsequent finalization by the next session of the Sub-Committee before they are submitted to the 22nd session of the IMO Assembly for adoption.
Agreed amendments to the draft revised International Code for High Speed Craft (HSC 2000) due to be adopted at MSC 73, to bring carriage requirements for Voyage Data Recorders (VDRs) into line with the draft new revised Chapter V (Safety of Navigation) of SOLAS - also scheduled to be adopted by MSC 73.
Agreed draft amendments to the 1994 HSC Code, to include carriage requirements for VDRs, intended to be submitted to the 74th session of MSC in spring 2001, following further review by the Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Equipment.
Agreed amendments to the draft Guidelines for the design, construction and operation of passenger submersible craft, to require these craft to have an underwater location device and to be fitted with a speed and distance device. The guidelines will be submitted to MSC 73 for approval.
Reviewed a draft revised text of Annex 2 - Recommendation on operational procedures for maritime pilots other than deep-sea pilots to resolution A.485(XII) on Training, qualifications and operational procedures for maritime pilots other than deep-sea pilots and agreed to continue discussions at the next session of the Sub-Committee, scheduled for July 2001.