Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 99th session 16-25 May 2018

IMO takes first steps to address autonomous ships

The MSC commenced work to look into how safe, secure and environmentally sound Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) operations may be addressed in IMO instruments.

The Committee endorsed a framework for a regulatory scoping exercise, as work in progress, including preliminary definitions of MASS and degrees of autonomy, as well as a methodology for conducting the exercise and a plan of work. (See press briefing 08/2018

Adoption of amendments
The MSC adopted, inter-alia, amendments to the following instruments:

Regulations II-1/1 and II-1/8-1 of the 1974 SOLAS Convention
Amendments to SOLAS regulations II-1/1 and II-1/8-1, concerning computerized stability support for the master in case of flooding for existing passenger ships. The amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2020.

Chapter IV of SOLAS, and the appendix to the annex to the 1974 SOLAS Convention, and consequential amendments to HSC and SPS Codes
Amendments to chapter IV of SOLAS, and the appendix to the annex to the 1974 SOLAS Convention, replacing all references to "Inmarsat" with references to a ”recognized mobile satellite service" and consequential amendments to the International Code of Safety for High speed Craft, 1994 (1994 HSC Code), the International Code of Safety for High-speed Craft, 2000 (2000 HSC Code) and the Code of Safety for Special Purpose Ships, 2008 (2008 SPS Code). The amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2020.

International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code
Amendments to update the IMDG Code (Amendment 39-18) in line with the latest recommendations from the  United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, which sets the basic requirements for all transport modes. The amendments include new provisions regarding IMO type 9 tank, a set of new abbreviations for segregation groups and new special provisions for carriage of lithium batteries and for carriage of vehicles powered by flammable liquid or gas. The amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2020, with Governments invited to apply them on a voluntary basis from 1 January 2019.

International Code for the Application of Fire Test Procedures, 2010 (2010 FTP Code)
Amendments to annex 3 to the Code, concerning fire protection materials and required approval test methods for passenger ships and high speed craft. The amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2020.

Model forms of Certificate of Fitness in various Codes
Amendments to the model forms of the Certificates of Fitness, clarifying the requirement for an approved loading and stability manual/booklet to be supplied to the ship, under the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC Code), International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC Code), Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (BCH Code), Code for Existing Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (EGC Code), and the Code for the  Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (GC Code). The amendments are expected to enter into force or take effect, as appropriate, on 1 January 2020.

Goal-based standards – revised verification guidelines agreed in principle 
Following the confirmation by MSC 98 that 12 Recognized Organizations have demonstrated that their ship construction rules conform to the Goal-based ship construction standards for bulkers and oil tankers (GBS), the MSC was updated on the work regarding the second stage of assessing conformity, the maintenance of verification with IMO’s GBS, which considers new rules and rule changes introduced since the initial verification audit.

Following consideration by a working group, the Committee approved, in principle, a draft MSC resolution on Revised guidelines for verification of conformity with goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers (GBS Verification Guidelines), with a view to adoption at MSC 100. The MSC endorsed the view that the revised guidelines would require a periodical review, taking into account the experience gained in the auditing process over time.

Goal-based safety level approach – interim guidelines agreed in principle
The MSC approved, in principle, draft Interim guidelines for development and application of IMO goal-based standards safety level approach, for final approval at MSC 100.

Polar Code – second phase
The International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) entered into force in January 2017 under both the SOLAS and MARPOL treaties. It provides additional requirements for ships trading in Arctic waters and the Antarctic area, on top of applicable SOLAS and MARPOL regulations. 

The MSC considered how the safety measures of the Polar Code might be applied in the future to non-SOLAS vessels operating in polar waters and agreed that the development of such safety measures should focus on fishing vessels, pleasure yachts above 300 gross tonnage not engaged in trade and cargo ships below 500 gross tonnage down to 300 gross tonnnage.

As a first step,  the MSC instructed the Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC 6) to develop recommendatory safety measures for the following types of vessels when operating in polar waters: fishing vessels of 24 m in length and over ,with a view to alignment with the 2012 Cape Town Agreement; and pleasure yachts above 300 gross tonnage not engaged in trade.

The Committee agreed to establish a working group at MSC 100 to further consider how to move forward with developing mandatory and/or recommendatory measures for ships operating in polar waters but not currently covered by the Polar Code; and the involvement of the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) concerning communication and navigation requirements for such vessels.

Member States and interested international organizations were invited to submit proposals to the next session. 

New ships' routeing measures in Bering Sea adopted
The MSC adopted new and amended ships' routeing measures in the Bering Sea and Bering Strait, aimed at reducing the risks of incidents - the first measures adopted by IMO for the Arctic region where the Polar Code applies.

Also adopted were: a traffic separation scheme and other routeing measures In Dangan Channel (China) and In the vicinity of Kattegat (Denmark and Sweden); and an area to be avoided Off the coast of Ghana in the Atlantic Ocean (Ghana).

Piracy and maritime security
The MSC received an update on reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships and stressed that the diligent application of IMO guidance and best management practices to counter piracy and armed robbery against ships worked and should be continued. The Organization received reports of 203 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships worldwide in 2017, the lowest for over 20 years, confirming the current downward year on year trend, with a reduction of about 8% at the global level.

With respect to piracy and armed robbery against ships in the waters off the coast of Somalia, the Committee further noted that Somalia based piracy had been suppressed, but not eradicated. In 2017 a total of six incidents were reported. So far, in 2018 there had been two reported incidents of attempted piracy (Leopard Sun on 22 February 2018 and Kriti Spirit on 31 March 2018),

In the Gulf of Guinea, the number of incidents reported to the Organization decreased last year to 48 incidents recorded in the IMO GISIS database, against 62 in 2016. However, in the first four months of 2018, the number of incidents significantly increased in the region, with 37 incidents reported, some resulting in the hijacking of ships and holding of crew members for ransom. On a more positive note, the Committee noted that naval forces in the region were showing an increased appetite and capability to intervene in such incidents.

The MSC also noted that, in response to the threats and recent incidents arising from the conflict in Yemen, such as sea mines and waterborne improvised explosive devices, the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), ICS, BIMCO and INTERTANKO had published interim guidance on maritime security in the southern Red Sea and Bab al-Mandeb.

The MSC stressed that Member States needed to continue to provide naval assets and flag States needed to continue to monitor the threat to ships flying their flag and set appropriate security levels, in accordance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.

Recognition of services for use in the GMDSS
The MSC agreed that Iridium Satellite LLC had satisfied the established criteria to receive recognition as a mobile satellite communication service provider in the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) and adopted a Statement of Recognition of the Maritime Mobile Satellite Services provided by Iridium Satellite LLC, which recognizes the services provided by the Iridium Safety Voice, Short-Burst Data and enhanced group calling services, for use in the GMDSS.

The International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO), which oversees public satellite safety and security communication services provided by recognized mobile satellite communication systems for use in the GMDSS, was invited to monitor the implementation of the Iridium services and report to the Committee when the Public Services Agreement with Iridium had been concluded and the Letter of Compliance issued. 

The MSC also adopted a Statement of Recognition of Maritime Satellite Services provided by Inmarsat Global Ltd, for use in the GMDSS. The statement recognizes services provided by the Inmarsat Fleet Safety service, in the coverage area under the Inmarsat-4 Middle East and Asia (MEAS) region satellite,.

Adoption/approval of guidance and guidelines
The MSC also:

  • Approved Guidelines on operational information for masters in case of flooding for passenger ships constructed before 1 January 2014.
  • Approved Guidelines for wing-in-ground (WIG) craft, to apply to WIG craft carrying more than 12 passengers and/or having a full load displacement of more than 10 tonnes.
  • Approved draft amendments to the International Code on Enhanced Programme of Inspections during Surveys of Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers, 2011 (2011 ESP Code), in accordance with the procedure for undertaking regular updates of the Code, for adoption at the next session. 
  • Adopted Performance standards for shipborne Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) receiver equipment. 
  • Approved the updated IMO e-navigation Strategy Implementation Plan (SIP). 
  • Approved Interim guidelines for the harmonized display of navigation information received via communications equipment.
  • Approved updates to the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual, including a new section related to search and rescue operations in areas remote from search and rescue facilities; and updates to the section on mass rescue operations. 
  • Adopted amendments to the Revised Performance standards for integrated navigation systems (INS) (resolution MSC.252(83)) relating to the harmonization of bridge design and display of information.
  • Approved amendments to the Continuity of service plan for the LRIT system (MSC.1/Circ.1376/Rev.2) and the LRIT Technical documentation (MSC.1/Circ.1259/Rev.7 and MSC.1/Circ.1294/Rev.5).
  • Reviewed and validated model course 3.24 on Security Awareness Training for Port Facility Personnel with Designated Security Duties.  
  • Adopted revised guidelines on the prevention of access by stowaways and the allocation of responsibilities to seek the successful resolution of stowaway cases, which will be jointly adopted by the Facilitation Committee.   
  • Approved the consolidated Revised Emergency Response Procedures for Ships Carrying Dangerous Goods (EmS Guide).