Maritime Safety Committee, 102nd session (MSC 102), 4-11 November 2020 (virtual session)

IMO endorses COVID-19 crew change protocols

An important set of protocols to ensure safe ship crew changes and travel during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been given endorsement by IMO's senior technical body, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC). 


The Committee, meeting virtually for its 102nd session (4-11 November) approved a circular to include the industry-developed protocols, which set out general measures and procedures designed to ensure that ship crew changes can take place safely during the pandemic. 

Read more: press briefing 

The Committee also agreed that a Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) module should be developed to register ports that facilitate crew changes and disseminate information provided by Member States regarding those ports, to enable shipping companies to easily plan and organize crew changes during the pandemic.  The Secretariat will take the necessary steps to launch the new module, which will also include contact details of national crew change focal points, by the end of the year.

On other matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee approved an MSC circular on Unified interpretation of SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10 concerning the term "unforeseen delay in delivery of ships" during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which supports the guidance provided in Circular Letters No.4204/Add.1 and 4204/Add.7 on matters related to the implementation and enforcement of relevant IMO instruments in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adoption of amendments and other matters

The Maritime Safety Committee also progressed its work on a wide range of important technical matters, including adoption of amendments and guidelines.

New safe mooring requirements adopted

The MSC adopted amendments to chapter II-1 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), related to towing and mooring. The amendments to SOLAS regulation II-1/3-8 (Towing and mooring equipment), require appropriate and safe-to-use designs of mooring arrangements, and introduce a maintenance and inspection regime, as well as proper documentation.

Related  guidelines were also adopted, covering the design of mooring arrangements and the selection of appropriate mooring equipment and fittings for safe mooring; and inspection and maintenance of mooring equipment including lines; as well as revised guidance on shipboard towing and mooring equipment. The amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2024.

Other amendments adopted

  • Amendments to parts B-1, B-2 and B-4 of SOLAS chapter II-1 related to watertight integrity requirements. The amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2024.

  • Amendments to the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code),  related to the fuel containment systems, fire safety, welding of metallic materials and non-destructive testing.

  • Amendments to the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC Code), related to welding procedure tests for cargo tanks and process pressure vessels.

  • Amendments to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code) (amendment 40-20) related to segregation requirements for alcoholates; segregation in relation to liquid organic substances; classification and transport of carbon, following incidents involving the spontaneous ignition of charcoal; classification of UN portable tanks for multimodal transport; and provisions for labels.

Safety of ships using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel – interim guidelines approved

The MSC approved interim guidelines for the safety of ships using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel, aiming to provide an international standard for ships using such fuels. The guidelines include provisions for the arrangement, installation, control and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel to minimize the risk to the ship, its crew and the environment, having regard to the nature of the fuels involved.

The MSC already invited the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) at a previous session to develop standards for methyl/ethyl alcohol as a marine fuel; and for methyl/ethyl alcohol fuel couplings.

The interim guidelines were developed by the Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC), in the context of its work related on the IGF Code. The IGF Code, which entered into force in 2017, aims to minimize the risk to ships, their crews and the environment, given the nature of the fuels involved. It has initially focused on liquefied natural gas (LNG), but work is now underway to include other relevant fuel types.

There is increased focus on new fuels and fuel blends, under development to ensure compliance with the 0.50% sulphur limit for fuel oil (which entered into force on 1 January 2020) and IMO 2030 and 2050 CO₂ emission targets set out in the IMO GHG strategy.

Other work  on gases and low flashpoint fuelin progress by the CCC Sub-Committee includes development of draft interim guidelines for the safety of ships using fuel cell power installations;  and development of draft amendments to the IGF Code to include safety provisions for ships using low-flashpoint oil fuels.  

Goal based ship construction standards 

The MSC confirmed   that the information provided by the 12 IACS  member recognized organizations demonstrated  continued  conformity  with  the  Organization's  goal-based  ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers.

The MSC also confirmed that, following rectification of non-conformities, the initial GBS audit  of Turkish classification society Türk Loydu's ship construction rules had been successfully completed.

(Read more on GBS here https://www.imo.org/en/OurWork/Safety/Pages/Goal-BasedStandards.aspx .)

Interim Guidelines for second generation intact stability criteria approved

The MSC approved Interim Guidelines for second generation intact stability criteria, having worked on them for over two decades.

Mandatory criteria and recommended provisions regarding intact stability are set out in IMO's 2008 Intact Stability (IS) Code, which is mandatory under the SOLAS Convention Chapter II-1 and the 1988 Load Lines Protocol. Advanced computer technology and intensive research have enabled "second generation" intact stability criteria to be developed, for a comprehensive safety assessment of ship dynamics in waves.

The interim guidelines address vulnerability criteria, direct stability failure assessment and operational measures and contain performance-based criteria for assessing five dynamic stability failure modes in waves: dead ship condition, excessive acceleration, pure loss of stability, parametric rolling and surf-riding/broaching. The reference to "second generation" derives from the fact that they are principally based on first principles and latest technology, as opposed to predominant use of casualty records which form the basis of the mandatory intact stability criteria.

With respect to ship damage stability, the Committee adopted Revised explanatory notes to SOLAS chapter II-1 subdivision and damage stability regulations, developed to ensure the uniform application of the regulations, including those SOLAS amendments adopted at this session.

Safety of ships carrying industrial personnel

The MSC agreed to hold an intersessional working group(in 2021 (subject to approval by the IMO Council), to finalize the draft International Code of Safety for Ships Carrying Industrial Personnel (IP Code) and associated draft new SOLAS chapter XV for all types of cargo ships.

The IP Code supplements existing IMO instruments in order to provide carriage requirements for the offshore and energy sectors that employ and transfer on ships industrial personnel for the construction, maintenance, decommissioning, operation and servicing of offshore facilities. The Code, in addition to the existing requirements for cargo ships contained in SOLAS regulations, will facilitate the safe carriage and transfer of such personnel by addressing additional risks connected with such operations.

Preventing accidents with lifting appliances and winches – draft amendments approved

The MSC approved in principle draft amendments to SOLAS chapter II-I related to onboard-lifting appliances and anchor handling winches. The draft amendments are aimed at preventing accidents related to such equipment, which cause harm to operators and damage to ships, cargo, shore-based structures and subsea structures, as well as to the marine environment.

The aim is to adopt the amendments at a future session in conjunction with related Guidelines for lifting appliances and Guidelines for anchor handling winches, which are currently being finalized.

Revised Guidelines for Vessel Traffic Services approved

The MSC approved a draft Assembly  resolution  to update and revise the Guidelines  for  Vessel  Traffic Services, for submission to A 32 in 2021 with a view to adoption, updating the version adopted in 1997 (resolution A.857(20)).

Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) recognized

The MSC recognized the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) as a component of  the  World-wide  radionavigation  system.

Performance standards adopted

The MSC adopted Performance standards for shipborne Japanese  Quasi-Zenith  Satellite  System  (QZSS)  receiver  equipment.

Ships routeing measures adopted

The MSC adopted the following ships' routeing measures:

  • Harmonized and consolidated ships' routeing systems off the coast of Norway ("Off the western coast of Norway", "Off the coast of southern Norway" and "Off the coast of Norway from Vardø to Røst"), each with traffic separation schemes (TSS) and recommended routes, aiming to optimize the effect of the routeing systems and apply them to the same categories of ships. (Norway)

  • Amended TSS "Slupska Bank" with the aim of reducing the danger of groundings in the area of shallows detected further east of the existing TSS in and outside the Polish territorial seas, in the southern part of the Baltic Sea. (Poland)

  • Amended conditions of use for the two-way route in the TSS "Off Ushant" in order to remove ambiguities and take into account technological developments. (France)

  • An additional two-way route in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, in Far North Queensland, Australia, intended to serve also as an associated protective measure for the Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. (Australia)

Other technical matters

The Committee also took other decisions relating to work carried out by the sub-committees, and in particular: 

  • Adopted amendments to table B-I/2 (List of certificates or documentary evidence required under the STCW Convention) of the STCW Code, intended to provide better guidance to Parties, Administrations, port State control authorities, recognized organizations and other relevant parties by updating  the list of all certificates or documentary evidence described in the Convention which authorize the holder to serve in certain capacities, perform certain duties, functions or be assigned certain responsibilities on board ships.

  • Approved, for future adoption, draft amendments to the STCW Convention to include the definition of "high-voltage" in STCW Convention regulation I/1.

  • Approved, for future adoption, draft amendments to section A-I/1 of the STCW Code on the inclusion  of  the  capacity  "electro-technical  officer"  in  the  definition  of "operational level", as a consequential amendment to the introduction of this capacity as part of the 2010 Manila Amendments.

  • Approved guidelines for the  acceptance of alternative metallic materials for cryogenic service in ships carrying liquefied gases  in  bulk  and  ships  using  gases  or  other  low-flashpoint  fuels.

  • Approved, having noted satisfactory results of the fatigue test, revised Interim guidelines on the application of high manganese austenitic steel for cryogenic service (MSC.1/Circ.1599).

  • Approved amendments to the Code of Safe Practice for Cargo Stowage and Securing (CSS Code) related to weather-dependent lashing, heavy cargo items and semi-standardized cargoes such as vehicles on ro-ro ships. 

  • Approved related consequential amendments to the revised Guidelines for the preparation of the Cargo Securing Manual (MSC.1/Circ.1353/Rev.1) for dissemination as MSC.1/Circ.1353/Rev.2; draft amendments to the Guidelines for securing arrangements for the  transport  of  road  vehicles  on  ro-ro  ships  (resolution  A.581(14),  as amended); and  amendments  to the  Code  of  Safe  Practice  for  Ships Carrying Timber Deck Cargoes, 2011 (2011 TDC Code).

  • Approved a unified interpretation of paragraph 7.1.4.4.2 of the IMDG Code regarding life-saving appliances.

  • Approved Unified interpretations of the IGC Code.

  • Approved a revision of the International SafetyNET Manual, to reflect, among other things, updates to related GMDSS services provided by Inmarsat. SafetyNET is an integral part of the GMDSS, providing an international automatic direct-printing satellite-based service for the promulgation of maritime safety information (MSI), navigational and meteorological warnings, meteorological forecasts, SAR related information and other urgent safety-related messages to ships.

  • Approved an MSC circular on the IMO Enhanced Group Call (EGC) Coordinating Panel which, in cooperation with the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO), coordinates the international broadcast of MSI and SAR-related information, using recognized mobile satellite services.

  • Approved amendments  to  section 3 of the Unified Interpretations of provisions related to doors in watertight  bulkheads  of  passenger  ships and cargo ships (MSC.1/Circ.1572), following related SOLAS amendments adopted by resolution MSC.421(98).

  • Endorsed, subject  to  concurrent  decision  by  MEPC  75,  Revised  carriage  requirements  for  methyl  acrylate  and  methyl methacrylate (PPR.1/Circ.9), approved by PPR 7. The guidelines note the importance of  using  the  correct  carriage  requirements  when transporting these cargoes in order to avoid potential sources of heat that could initiate a polymerizing reaction in the cargoes. 

  • Approved Revised guidelines for the design and approval of fixed water-based fire-fighting systems for ro-ro spaces and special category  spaces  (MSC.1/Circ.1430/Rev.2), clarifying minimum  required  water  discharge density and area coverage for decks having a certain free height.  

  • Approved, for future adoption, draft amendments to chapter 9 of the FSS Code. The draft amendments relate  to  fault  isolation  requirements  for individually identifiable fire detector systems installed, in lieu of section identifiable  fire  detector  systems  on  cargo  ships  and  passenger ship cabin balconies; and clarify the acceptability of less complex and costly section identifiable fault isolation for individually identifiable fire detector systems.

  • Approved, for future adoption, draft amendments to SOLAS regulation III/33 and the LSA Code, aiming to remove the applicability of the requirements to launch free-fall lifeboats to test their strength with the ship making headway at speeds up to 5 knots in calm water on cargo ships of 20,000 GT and above.

  • Approved Revised standardized life-saving appliance evaluation and test report forms (revising and replacing MSC/Circ.980 and addenda). The revised forms are the result of a comprehensive review, conducted to update them to match the requirements of the Revised recommendation for the testing of LSA appliances (MSC.81(70)).

  • Adopted an MSC resolution on the Revised use and fitting of retro-reflective materials on life-saving appliances, to allow new emerging technologies to be used for accelerated weathering tests of retro-reflective materials, superseding existing resolution A.658(16).

  • Approved, for future adoption, a new draft SOLAS regulation II-1/25-1 on Water level detectors on multiple hold cargo ships other than bulk carriers and tankers.

  • Approved, for future adoption, draft amendments related to requirements for watertight doors on cargo ships contained in MARPOL Annex I, the 1988 Load Lines Protocol, the IBC Code and the IGC Code.

  • Approved, for future adoption, draft  amendments  to  the  2011  ESP  Code,  relating to thickness measurements at the first renewal survey of double hull oil tanker.