IMO Maritime Safety meeting completes packed agenda
IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) met at the Organization's London Headquarters for its 87th session from 12 to 21 May 2010, completing a packed agenda which saw the adoption of mandatory goal-based standards for ship construction, the adoption of amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS),
discussion on piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden and the implementation of the Long-Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) system.
Adoption of goal-based standards
IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) has instigated an historic change in the way international standards for ship construction are to be determined and implemented in the future.
The adoption of so-called "goal-based standards" (GBS) for oil tankers and bulk carriers by the MSC, means that newly-constructed vessels of these types will have to comply with structural standards conforming to functional requirements developed and agreed by the Committee. This means that, for the first time in its history, IMO will be setting standards for ship construction.
The Committee also adopted guidelines that, equally for the first time, give the Organization a role in verifying conformity with SOLAS requirements. The guidelines establish the procedures to be followed in order to verify that the design and construction rules of an Administration or its recognized organization, for bulk carriers and/or oil tankers, conform to the adopted GBS. The verification process consists of two main elements: self assessment of the rules by the entity submitting them to IMO for verification; followed by an audit, to be carried out by experts appointed by the Organization, of the rules, the self-assessment and the supporting documentation.
Since the beginning of the 2000s, Governments and international organizations had expressed the view that the Organization should play a larger role in determining the structural standards to which new ships are built. The philosophy underpinning this move has been that ships should be designed and constructed for a specified design life and that, if properly operated and maintained, they should remain safe and environmentally friendly throughout their service life.
The MSC formally adopted International Goal based Ship Construction Standards for Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers, along with amendments to Chapter II-1 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), making their application mandatory, with an entry into force date of 1 January 2012.
The new SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10 will apply to oil tankers and bulk carriers of 150m in length and above. It will require new ships to be designed and constructed for a specified design life and to be safe and environmentally friendly, in intact and specified damage conditions, throughout their life. Under the regulation, ships should have adequate strength, integrity and stability to minimize the risk of loss of the ship or pollution to the marine environment due to structural failure, including collapse, resulting in flooding or loss of watertight integrity.
The MSC further adopted Guidelines for the information to be included in a Ship Construction File.
The notion of "goal-based ship construction standards" was introduced in IMO at the 89th session of the Council in November 2002, through a proposal by the Bahamas and Greece, suggesting that the Organization should develop ship construction standards that would permit innovation in design but ensure that ships are constructed in such a manner that, if properly maintained, they remain safe for their entire economic life. The standards would also have to ensure that all parts of a ship can be easily accessed to permit proper inspection and ease of maintenance. The Council referred the proposal to the 77th meeting of the MSC in May/June 2003 for consideration.
The MSC commenced detailed technical work on the development of goal-based ship construction standards at its 78th session in May 2004, when a comprehensive general debate of the issues involved took place and the Committee agreed to utilize a five tier system initially proposed by the Bahamas, Greece and the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), consisting of the following:
Tier I - Goals
High-level objectives to be met.
Tier II - Functional requirements
Criteria to be satisfied in order to conform to the goals.
Tier III - Verification of conformity
Procedures for verifying that the rules and regulations for ship design and construction conform to the goals and functional requirements.
Tier IV - Rules and regulations for ship design and construction
Detailed requirements developed by IMO, national Administrations and/or recognized organizations and applied by national Administrations, and/or recognized organizations acting on their behalf, to the design and construction of a ship in order to conform to the goals and functional requirements.
Tier V - Industry practices and standards
Industry standards, codes of practice and safety and quality systems for shipbuilding, ship operation, maintenance, training, manning, etc., which may be incorporated into, or referenced in, the rules and regulations for the design and construction of a ship.
The goal-based standards adopted at this session reflect tiers I to III.
Piracy and armed robbery against ships
The MSC reviewed the latest statistics on piracy and armed robbery against ships, and condemned all such acts (particularly off the coast of Somalia where piracy and armed robbery continues to be a menace to shipping) and urged, once again, all Governments and the shipping industry to intensify and coordinate their efforts to eradicate piracy and armed robbery against ships.
The number of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships reported to the Organization to have occurred in 2009 was 406, against 306 during 2008, representing an increase of 32.7%. In the first four months of 2010, 135 incidents had been reported. The majority of actual attacks reported worldwide during 2009 had occurred in international waters, largely as a result of pirate activity in the waters off the coast of Somalia. Meanwhile, the numbers of attacks reported that had occurred in port facilities while the ships were at anchor or berthed, had shown a steady downward trend since the introduction of the International Ship and Port Facilities (ISPS) Code in 2004.
The Committee was updated on measures taken by IMO to assist States in implementing the Djibouti Code of Conduct concerning the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. A Project Implementation Unit has been established within the Maritime Safety Division of IMO, charged with developing and implementing a detailed action plan, which will be supported by four key pillars: developing a robust legal framework, maritime situational awareness, exchange of information, and capacity-building to develop coast guard capabilities. The current focus, the Committee heard, is on establishing and developing the three information-sharing centres in Sana'a, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam; and the regional training facilities to be established in Djibouti as building blocks for overall coordination and co-operation within the region.
The Committee agreed to the establishment of a distribution facility at IMO headquarters in London, for the provision of flag State LRIT information to security forces operating in waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Western Indian Ocean, to aid their work in combating piracy and armed robbery against ships. The facility will give flag States the option to instruct ships flying their flags to provide LRIT information in the area and, in turn, allow security forces to receive such information.
The MSC adopted Guidelines on operational procedures for the promulgation of maritime safety information concerning acts of piracy and piracy counter-measure operations, which aims at facilitating the broadcast of navigational safety information originated by naval forces to merchant ships.
Lifeboat release hooks - adoption of amendment postponed to MSC 88
The Committee agreed to postpone (to MSC 88, in November-December 2010) the adoption of an amendment to SOLAS regulation III/1 in conjunction with the approval of Guidelines for evaluation and replacement of lifeboat on-load release mechanisms and adoption of the related amendments to the International Life-Saving Appliances (LSA) Code.
The proposed SOLAS amendment is intended to ensure new, stricter, safety standards for lifeboat release hooks, aimed at preventing accidents involving lifeboats, and will result in the review and possible replacement of a large number of release hooks for lifeboats, thereby requiring action from all involved parties, including flag States, manufacturers, shipowners, surveyors.
It was agreed that an intersessional Working Group on Lifeboat Release Hooks would meet in October 2010, to finalize the draft Guidelines, review the proposed SOLAS amendment and report to MSC 88.
International LRIT Data Exchange to be established at EMSA, Lisbon
The MSC agreed to the establishment, maintenance and operation of the International LRIT Data Exchange by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), in Lisbon, Portugal, from 2011, initially to 2013. The new international exchange will take over from the interim international exchange in the United States.
The Committee also approved a circular on Interim continuity of service plan for the LRIT system, for the period between MSC 87 and MSC 88, with a view to reviewing and finalizing the continuity of service plan for the LRIT system at MSC 88, in November-December 2010, taking into account the experience gained with its use and implementation.
Amendments to SOLAS and related mandatory Codes
As well as the amendments relating to goal-based standards, the MSC also adopted the following SOLAS amendments, with an expected entry force date of 1 January 2012:
Corrosion protection of cargo oil tanks
A new SOLAS regulation II-1/3-11 on Corrosion protection of cargo oil tanks of crude oil tankers, to require all such tanks to be protected against corrosion, with related performance standards also adopted;
Amendments to SOLAS regulation II-2/4.5.7 on Gas measurement and detection and to SOLAS regulation II-2/7.4.1 relating to fixed fire detection and fire alarm systems. Amendments to the International Code for Fire Safety Systems (FSS Code) were also adopted.
STCW amendments endorsed
The Committee endorsed draft amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) and its related Code, which will be considered for adoption by a diplomatic conference to be held in Manila, Philippines from 21 to 25 June 2010.
Implementation of the revised STCW Convention
The list of Parties deemed to be giving full and complete effect to the provisions of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) 1978, as amended, was updated with the addition of two Parties, following the submission of the Secretary-General's report on those countries whose independent evaluations had been completed since the previous MSC meeting.
The MSC considered other issues arising from the reports of Sub-Committees and other bodies, and took action as follows:
- Approved, for adoption at MSC 88, the International Code for the Application of Fire Test Procedures, 2010 (2010 FTP Code), which is a comprehensive revision of the Code, aimed at making it more user friendly and enhancing its uniform application;
- Adopted amendments to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code;
- Adopted amendments to the Code of Practice for the Safe Loading and Unloading of Bulk Carriers (BLU Code) and the Manual on Loading and Unloading of Solid Bulk Cargoes for Terminal Representatives, to update the two instruments in view of the mandatory International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, which is expected to become effective on 1 January 2011;
- Adopted the revised International SafetyNET Manual;
- Approved Safety Recommendations for decked fishing vessels of less than 12 metres in length and undecked fishing vessels, for concurrent endorsement by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO);
- Approved Guidelines for security-related training and familiarization for port facility personnel with and without security-related duties and Reminder in connection with shore leave and access to ships;
- Approved Interim Guidelines for the construction and equipment of ships carrying natural gas hydrate pellets (NGHP) in bulk;
- Adopted Performance Standards for Bridge Alert Management;
- Approved Amendments to the Code of Safe Practice for Cargo Stowage and Securing (CSS Code), Revised Guidelines for the preparation of the Cargo Securing Manual, Amendments to the Guidelines for securing arrangements for the transport of road vehicles on ro ro ships (resolution A.581(14)) and Amendments to the Elements to be taken into account when considering the safe stowage and securing of cargo units and vehicles in ships (resolution A.533(13)); and
- Adopted a number of new and amended ships' routeing systems and mandatory ship reporting systems.