Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC 10), 22-26 January 2024

Reducing underwater noise from ships – Action Plan agreed 

The Sub-Committee agreed on an Action Plan to further prevent and reduce underwater radiated noise (URN) from ships, with the aim of minimizing its adverse effects on the marine environment, particularly on marine wildlife and indigenous communities.   

The Action Plan intends to increase awareness, uptake and implementation of Revised Guidelines for the reduction of underwater radiated noise from shipping, which took effect in October 2023.  

The Action Plan outlines a number of tasks for implementation by relevant organs and bodies, including: 

  • Establish an experience-building phase (EBP) for the Revised Guidelines 
  • Enhance public awareness, education, and seafarer training 
  • Standardize URN Management Planning process 
  • Develop URN Targets 
  • Further develop policy for URN reduction 
  • Create IMO processes/technical groups to share information and take into consideration other IMO regulatory goals 
  • Develop tools to collect data and share information 
  • Encourage research on URN and greenhouse gas GHG/URN and biofouling management 
  • Encourage research on impacts of URN on species and habitats 

The Sub-Committee recommended a three-year experience-building phase (EBP) during which Member States and international organizations are invited to share lessons learned and best practices that have emerged in the implementation of the Revised Guidelines.  

All the above will be submitted for endorsement by the upcoming session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 81), to be held 18-22 March 2024.  

In addition, the Sub-Committee agreed on amendments to the Revised Guidelines for the reduction of underwater radiated noise from shipping, pertaining to the URN planning reference chart. This will be submitted for approval at the 82nd session of MEPC (MEPC 82) to be held 30 September – 4 October 2024. 

IMO is developing the GloNoise Partnership project to assist developing countries and regions to raise awareness, build capacity and collect information to assist the policy dialogue on mitigating underwater noise from shipping. 

In September 2023, an expert workshop held at IMO looked into ship designs and operations that collectively increase energy efficiency, lower Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, and reduce underwater radiated noise (URN). Read the outcome of that workshop here

Emergency Towing Arrangements for Ships other than Tankers – Guidelines in development 

After finalization by SDC 9 and subsequent approval by MSC 107 of the draft amendments to SOLAS regulation II-2/3-4 to include emergency towing arrangements for ships other than tankers, the Sub-Committee has commenced developing associated guidelines, based on the existing instruments for tankers.  

The Sub-Committee invited interested Member States and international organizations to submit more information, including data, to facilitate further considerations at the next session of the Sub-Committee (SDC 11) to take place in 2025. 

The Guidelines are expected to take effect from 1 January 2028, when the abovementioned SOLAS amendments are expected to enter into force.  

Remote inspection techniques for surveys – Amendments to ESP Code in development 

The Sub-Committee continued discussions around remote inspection techniques (RIT) under the ESP Code as an alternative means for close-up survey of the structure of ships.  

The use of RIT (such as drones, remotely operated vehicles and robotic arms) to survey the structure of ships greatly enhances the safety of personnel.  

The Sub-Committee agreed to continue work intersessionally, establishing a Correspondence Group to prepare and finalize the draft amendments to the ESP Code, develop draft guidelines for the use of RIT and approval of firms engaged in surveys that use RIT, and identify provisions that would facilitate a holistic approach on the matter, for consideration by other IMO bodies. 

The Group will submit a written report to SDC 11 for further discussion. 

Guidelines on alternative design and arrangements for SOLAS chapter II-1 – draft amendments agreed 

The Sub-Committee finalized and agreed draft amendments to the Guidelines on alternative design and arrangements for SOLAS chapters II-1 and III (MSC.1/Circ.1212/Rev.1). These Guidelines outline the methodology for the engineering analysis required for the approval of a ship’s alternative engineering design that deviates from the prescriptive requirements of SOLAS chapters II-1 and III. 

The agreed draft amendments mean the Guidelines will now comprise goals, functional requirements and expected performances that ensure that alternative designs for ship and machinery match the performance of prescriptive requirements of SOLAS. The draft amendments will be submitted to the MSC 108 for approval and adoption.  

The new requirements cover machinery installations, electrical installations and additional requirements for periodically unattended machinery spaces.   

Regulations on non-traditional steering systems SOLAS II-1 – Amendments in development 

The Sub-Committee commenced work towards developing goal-based SOLAS regulations to accommodate traditional and non-traditional propulsion and steering systems.  

Progress was made in the preparation of draft amendments to SOLAS Regulation II-1/28 regarding requirements around the capability of going astern and stopping of ships. 

The Sub-Committee agreed to establish the Correspondence Group to further develop draft amendments to SOLAS Regulations II-1/ 28 to 30, as well as amendments to associated guidelines. 

The outcome of the correspondence group work is to be reported to the next session of the Sub-Committee SDC 11.  

Guidelines for Construction, Installation, Maintenance and Inspection/Survey of Means of Embarkation and Disembarkation – draft amendments agreed 

The Sub-Committee commenced work on the draft amendments to the Guidelines for construction, installation, maintenance and inspection/survey of means of embarkation and disembarkation (MSC.1/Circ.1331), which will continue at SDC 11.  

Unified interpretations of provisions of IMO safety, security and environment-related Conventions – Amendments agreed 

The Sub-Committee agreed several Unified interpretations (UI), developed to clarify and help ensure the consistent application of IMO regulations:

  • draft amendments to the UI of the Code on noise levels on board ships (Resolution MSC.337(91))
  • draft amendments to UI of SOLAS regulations II-2/9 and II-2/13 (MSC.1/Circ.1511). These pertain to the means of escape for emergency situations on a ship  
  • draft new UI to clarify how to harmonize the Industrial Personnel Safety Certificate with various SOLAS safety certificates when their validity or their endorsement differ 
  • draft revised UI of the Performance standards for water level detectors on bulk carriers and single hold cargo ships other than bulk carriers (Resolution MSC.188(79)) (MSC.1/Circ.1572/Rev.1)
  • draft UI of SOLAS regulation II-1/3-6 to ensure safe means of access to cargo and other spaces. 

All the above amendments will be submitted for approval at MSC 108. 

Setting of guard rails on the deck structure 

The Sub-Committee made progress on draft amendments to Regulation 25 of the 1988 Protocol to the 1966 International Convention on Load Lines, to require amendments to setting of guard rails or bulwarks which are located on exposed ship decks and are accessible to crews during navigation. 

These requirements would apply to new ships of at least 24m in length that take international voyages, contracted for construction from 1 January 2028. 

Assessment of passenger ship capabilities after a fire or flooding casualty – Interim Explanatory Notes under review 

The Sub-Committee progressed its work to revise the Interim Explanatory Notes (EN) for the assessment of passenger ship capabilities after a fire or flooding casualty (MSC.1/Circ.1369). This revision takes into account more than a decade of advancement in technology and design, and relevant industry standards. 

The Interim Explanatory Notes were issued in 2010 to provide additional guidance for the implementation of a package of SOLAS amendments adopted in 2006. The SOLAS amendments aimed at improving passenger ship safety, placing more emphasis on preventing accidents and improving survivability of the ship. This is based on the concepts of “ship as its own lifeboat” and “safe return to port”, meaning that in an event of a casualty or accident, the ship design should allow passengers to stay on board safely while it proceeds to port.  

The Sub-Committee agreed on a new revised structure for the Interim Explanatory Notes MSC.1/Circ.1369 and re-established the Correspondence Group to assess and further develop the text, as appropriate. 

The Group will report back at the next session. Work is expected to be finalized at SDC 11. 

Use of Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) elements within ship structures – Interim Guidelines under review 

The Sub-Committee agreed to continue its work intersessionally to review the Interim guidelines for use of fibre-reinforced plastics (FRP) elements within ship structures. This relates to fire safety standards and recyclability of ships. 

A Correspondence Group was set up to review the Interim guidelines and to submit a report to SDC11.