IMO Goal-based standards

What are goal-based standards?

Goal-based standards (GBS) are high-level standards and procedures that are to be met through regulations, rules and standards for ships.  GBS are comprised of at least one goal, functional requirement(s) associated with that goal, and verification of conformity that rules/regulations meet the functional requirements including goals.  In order to meet the goals and functional requirements, classification societies acting as recognized organizations (ROs) and/or national Administrations will develop rules and regulations accordingly.  These detailed requirements become a part of a GBS framework when they have been verified, by independent auditors and/or appropriate IMO organs, as conforming to the GBS.

Going back to the 1990s, the Maritime Safety Committee recognized that the prescriptive-based regulations were unable to cope with the new ship design challenges and took action to incorporate the goal-based philosophy into the technical regulations of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS).  IMO has since been undergoing significant changes in the way it approaches the regulation of ship design. The ever increasing speed of computers has opened a new world for designers and researchers and, as a result, IMO Member Governments have started approaching safety from a completely new perspective – one that is goal and performance oriented, in lieu of the traditional prescriptive-based approach, taking into account the sophisticated nature of the maritime industry.

The basic principles of IMO goal-based standards/regulations are: 

  • Broad, over-arching safety, environmental and/or security standards that  ships are required to meet during their lifecycle.
  • The required level to be achieved by the requirements applied by class societies and other recognized organizations, Administrations and IMO.
  • Clear, demonstrable, verifiable, long standing, implementable and achievable, irrespective of ship design and technology.
  • Specific enough in order not to be open to differing interpretations. 

The above basic principles were developed to be applicable to all goal-based standards developed by IMO and not only to ship construction standards, in recognition that, in the future, IMO may develop goal-based standards for other safety areas, e.g. machinery, equipment, fire-protection, etc., as well as security and environment protection related areas, and that all goal-based standards developed by the Organization should follow the same basic principles.  The latest IMO instruments using the GBS approach are the Polar Code, IGF Code and Goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers. 

Goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers and the GBS verification audit scheme

The Maritime Safety Committee, at its eighty-seventh session in May 2010, adopted a new SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10 on Goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers (resolution MSC.290(87)).  This regulation, which entered into force on 1 January 2012, requires that all oil tankers and bulk carriers of 150 m in length and above, for which the building contract is placed on or after 1 July 2016, satisfy applicable structural requirements conforming to the functional requirements of the International Goal-based Ship Construction Standards for Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers (GBS Standards) (resolution MSC.287(87)).

Under the GBS Standards, construction rules for bulk carriers and oil tankers of classification societies which act as recognized organizations (ROs) or national Administrations will be verified, by international GBS Audit Teams established by IMO’s Secretary-General, based on the Revised guidelines for verification of conformity with goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers (resolution MSC.454(100)) (GBS Verification Guidelines).  These Guidelines foresee that recognized organizations and/or national maritime administrations submit requests for verification of their ship construction rules to the Secretary-General, who will forward these requests to the Audit Teams to be established for a verification of the submitted information through an independent review.  The final reports of the Teams with relevant recommendations are then forwarded to the MSC for consideration and approval.

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