Polar Code adopted
The MSC adopted the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code), and related amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to make it mandatory, marking an historic milestone in the Organization’s work to protect ships and people aboard them, both seafarers and passengers, in the harsh environment of the waters surrounding the two poles.
The Polar Code covers the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in waters surrounding the two poles.
Ships trading in the polar regions already have to comply with all relevant international standards adopted by IMO, but the newly adopted SOLAS chapter XIV “Safety measures for ships operating in polar waters”, adds additional requirements, by making mandatory the Polar Code (Preamble, Introduction and Part I-A (Safety measures)).
The Polar Code highlights the potential hazards of operating in polar regions, including ice, remoteness and rapidly changing and severe weather conditions, and provides goals and functional requirements in relation to ship design, construction, equipment, operations, training, and search and rescue, relevant to ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters.
As well as mandatory provisions, recommendations are also include in a Part 1-B.
The expected date of entry into force of the SOLAS amendments is 1 January 2017, under the tacit acceptance procedure. It will apply to new ships constructed after that date. Ships constructed before 1 January 2017 will be required to meet the relevant requirements of the Polar Code by the first intermediate or renewal survey, whichever occurs first, after 1 January 2018.
Because it contains both safety and environment related provisions, the Polar Code will be mandatory under both SOLAS and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). Last month (October 2014), IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) approved the necessary draft amendments to make the environmental provisions in the the Polar Code mandatory under MARPOL. The MEPC is expected to adopt the Code and associated MARPOL amendments at its next session in May 2015, with an entry-into-force date to be aligned with the SOLAS amendments.
SOLAS amendments to make IGF Code mandatory approved
The MSC approved draft SOLAS amendments to make mandatory the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low- flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code); adopted other SOLAS amendments; continued its work on its action plan on passenger ship safety; and approved and adopted a number of items put forward by the sub-committees.
The MSC also adopted the Polar Code and related amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to make it mandatory (See briefing 38/2014).
SOLAS amendments to make IGF code mandatory approved
The MSC approved, in principle, the draft International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code), and also approved proposed amendments to make the Code mandatory under SOLAS, with a view to adopting both the IGF Code and SOLAS amendments at the next session, MSC 95, scheduled to meet in June 2015.
Associated draft amendments to the 1978 and 1988 Protocols were also approved.
The IGF Code will provide mandatory provisions for the arrangement, installation, control and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems using low-flashpoint fuels, focusing initially on liquefied natural gas (LNG), to minimize the risk to the ship, its crew and the environment, having regard to the nature of the fuels involved.
The Code addresses all areas that need special consideration for the usage of low-flashpoint fuels, based on a goal-based approach, with goals and functional requirements specified for each section forming the basis for the design, construction and operation of ships using this type of fuel.
Adoption of SOLAS amendments
The MSC adopted the following amendments, with an expected entry into force date of 1 July 2016:
• Amendments to SOLAS chapter VI to require mandatory verification of the gross mass of containers, either by weighing the packed container; or weighing all packages and cargo items, using a certified method approved by the competent authority of the State in which packing of the container was completed;
• Amendments to add a new SOLAS regulation XI-1/7 on Atmosphere testing instrument for enclosed spaces, to require ships to carry an appropriate portable atmosphere testing instrument or instruments, capable of measuring concentrations of oxygen, flammable gases or vapours, hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide, prior to entry into enclosed spaces. Consequential amendments to the Code for the Construction and Equipment of Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (1979, 1989 and 2009 MODU Codes) were also adopted. The MSC also approved a related MSC Circular on Early implementation of SOLAS regulation XI-1/7 on Atmosphere testing instrument for enclosed spaces; and
• Amendments to update the International Code on the Enhanced Programme of Inspections During Surveys of Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers (2011 ESP Code), including revisions to the minimum requirements for cargo tank testing at renewal survey and addition of a new paragraph on rescue and emergency response equipment in relation to breathing apparatus.
E-navigation strategy approved
The MSC approved the e-navigation Strategy Implementation Plan (SIP), which provides a framework and a road map of tasks that would need to be implemented or conducted in the future to give effect to five prioritized e navigation solutions:
• improved, harmonized and user-friendly bridge design;
• means for standardized and automated reporting;
• improved reliability, resilience and integrity of bridge equipment and navigation information;
• integration and presentation of available information in graphical displays received via communication equipment; and
• improved communication of vessel traffic services (VTS) Service Portfolio (not limited to VTS stations).
A number of tasks have been identified for development and completion during the period 2015 to 2019. The MSC approved Guidelines on Harmonization of test beds reporting, aimed at harmonizing the way the results of testbeds are reported to the Organization.
Work on passenger ships safety continued
The MSC continued its ongoing work related to passenger ship safety and updated its long-term action plan on passenger ship safety, following consideration of the outcome of the Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III) on the casualty report on the Costa Concordia and other proposals received. The updated long-term action plan includes, among others, a new item on the possible extension, to existing passenger ships, of the SOLAS requirement relating to computerized stability support for the master in case of flooding and a new item on watertight doors maintenance.
Cyber security matters considered
The Committee considered a proposal to develop voluntary guidelines on cyber security practices to protect and enhance the resiliency of cyber systems supporting the operations of ports, vessels, marine facilities and other elements of the maritime transportation system and agreed to coordinate its future work on this matter with the Facilitation Committee.
The MSC also agreed that cyber security was an important and timely issue but that the Organization should not take unilateral action on this matter without consultation with other United Nations bodies and relevant international organizations such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Member States and observer organizations were invited to consider the issue and submit proposals to the next session of the Committee.
In connection with other issues arising from the reports of IMO sub-committees and other bodies, the MSC:
• Adopted a number of new and amended ships' routeing measures and an amended ship reporting system;
• Adopted amendments to the Code for the Construction and Equipment of Mobile Offshore Drilling Units, 2009 (2009 MODU Code), to allow an alternative procedure for lifeboat launching and manoeuvring drills;
• Adopted an amendment to the recommendation on conditions for the approval of servicing stations for inflatable liferafts (resolution A.761(18)), in relation to checking date-expired items in the contents of packed inflatable liferafts;
• Approved, for future adoption, draft amendments to SOLAS regulations II-2/4.5
and II-2/11.6, clarifying the provisions related to the secondary means of venting cargo tanks in order to ensure adequate safety against over- and under-pressure in the event of cargo tank isolation valve being damaged or inadvertently closed, and SOLAS regulation II-2/20, with respect to the air quality control system;
• Recognized the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), operated by China, as a component of World-Wide Radionavigation System (WWRNS);
• Approved an MSC Circular on the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for the Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code), following the approval of the CTU Code by the Inland Transport Committee of UNECE in February 2014, MSC 93 in May 2014 and the Governing Body of ILO in November 2014;
• Approved an MSC Circular on Informative Material related to the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for the Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code);
• Approved the revised Guide to recovery techniques;
• Approved Interim guidance for in-service testing of automatic sprinkler systems;
• Re-established a correspondence group to review and finalize draft Guidance on Development of National Maritime Security Legislation;
• Approved the draft Assembly resolution on Revised guidelines for the onboard operational use of shipborne automatic identification systems (AIS), for submission to the next IMO Assembly for adoption, to update earlier guidelines (first adopted in 2001 and revised in 2003);
• Approved the revised MSC.1/Circ.1210 on Guidance on Cospas-Sarsat International 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database (IBRD);
• Decided that the International Maritime Satellite Organization (IMSO) should convene a group of experts to produce a technical and operational assessment of the satellite communications company Iridium as a Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) mobile satellite service provider;
• Approved the MSC MEPC.5 circular on Unified interpretation on keel laying date for fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) craft;
• Approved a number of amendments to LRIT-related circulars to improve the functioning and operation of the LRIT system and related procedures; and
• Reviewed progress made on the implementation of the goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers, noting that five audit teams had been established and verification audits on 13 Recognized Organizations had been initiated since July 2014. Further work continued with regards to the development of the draft Interim Guidelines for the Application of the Goal-based Standards Safety Level Approach to IMO rule-making process.