Monday, May 15, 2000

Busy agenda for key IMO meeting
IMO should "consider undertaking a global consideration of safety issues pertaining to passenger ships, with particular emphasis on large cruise ships" says the UN agency's Secretary-General Mr. William A. O'Neil in a paper submitted to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC). The MSC, which meets 17-26 May 2000, is IMO's senior technical body--and O'Neil's submission is part of a heavy agenda.

In his paper, entitled "Enhancing the safety of large passenger ships," O'Neil notes the achievements of the shipbuilding and ancillary industries in delivering gigantic cruise ships embodying state-of-the-art technology.

He says the safety of recently built large cruise ships is not in doubt, nor is there concern as to whether they meet current safety standards--particularly those set by the SOLAS convention.

The question is "whether SOLAS and, to the extent applicable, the Load Line Convention requirements, several of which were drafted before some of these large ships were built, duly address all the safety aspects of their operation ­ in particular, in emergency situations." Also to be considered is whether the training requirements of the STCW [International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers] Convention relating to personnel operating large cruise ships are in need of any review or clarification in the circumstances.

O'Neil suggests that the MSC may wish to consider establishing an ad hoc working group to consider all relevant issues.

O'Neil's paper notes that according to statistical information, there are, at present, 47 passenger ships of 50,000 gross tonnage and above, built between 1961 and 1999, totaling 3,324,853 gross tonnage, capable of carrying 106,484 passengers and 38,389 crew members. Of these, 42 passenger ships, totalling 2,987,889 gross tonnage and being capable of carrying 96,075 passengers and 34,439 crew members were built since 1990; their average gross tonnage is 71,140, while their average capacity is 2,287 passengers and 819 crew members or 3,106 persons on board.

Draft revised Chapter V of SOLAS to be considered
The MSC will consider a completed revised draft text of SOLAS chapter V, together with the associated draft MSC resolution, for adoption at MSC 73 in December 2000.

The revised Chapter V will be longer than the existing chapter, with nearly twice as many regulations, and is being reformatted. It is intended that the revised Chapter V will enter into force on July 1, 2002, in accordance with the four-year interval agreed by the Maritime Safety Committee for bringing into force amendments to mandatory instruments.

The Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation finalized the draft revised Chapter V at its last meeting in September 1999. The review began in 1992.

Some points in a number of draft regulations remain open for discussion by the MSC--including carriage requirements for navigational equipment, including Automatic Ship Identification Systems (AIS) and Voyage Data Recorders (VDR).

The Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation agreed on the need for passenger ships on international voyages to carry Voyage Data Recorders (VDRs) and agreed that existing ro-ro passenger ships should comply with the requirement on the date of entry into force of the new regulations. However, the panel did not reach consensus regarding application to other types of ships and agreed that the MSC should decide whether to include in the regulation a phase-in implementation schedule for other ships.

Some delegations favored a resolution that calls on administrations to consider the use of VDR also on other ships and, in the light of the experience gained, to consider whether this regulation should be extended to cover other ships in future.

Performance standards for shipborne VDRs were adopted at the twentieth Assembly in 1997 by resolution A.861(20).

Comprehensive review of SOLAS chapter II-2 and Fire Safety Systems Code
MSC will also consider a draft revised SOLAS chapter II-2 and the draft Fire Safety Systems Code, submitted by the Sub-Committee on Fire Protection. If approved, it is expected that the texts will be circulated with a view to adoption by MSC November-December.

Bulk carrier safety
The MSC will establish a Working Group on Bulk Carrier Safety s.

In July 1999, a new chapter XII on Additional safety measures for bulk carriers to SOLAS, 1974, entered into force. The regulations in the chapter aim to prevent losses of bulk carriers due to structural failure following flooding of any hold in new ships and of the foremost hold of existing ships--identified as the cause of a number of losses of bulk carriers in the early 1990s. The chapter contains a number of requirements for improving the structural integrity of bulk carriers, including strengthening the double bottom and bulkhead of the foremost hold where required.

However, a 1998 report on the sinking of the bulk carrier Derbyshire in 1980 , presented to MSC in May 1998 by the U.K., contains further recommendations relating to the design and construction of bulk carriers.

The working group is expected to continue reviewing issues discussed at the previous session.

A number of issues are also being reviewed by the Sub-Committee on Stability and Load Lines and on Fishing Vessel Safety (SLF), including: strength of hatch covers and coamings; freeboard and bow height; reserve buoyancy at fore end, including forecastles; structural means to reduce loads on hatch covers and forward structure; and fore deck and fore end access.

FSA study on bulk carrier safety
MSC will also review progress in carrying out a formal safety assessment (FSA) study of bulk carriers. At its last session the MSC agreed to a framework setting out project objectives, scope and application, namely:

  • to inform IMO's future decision-making regarding measures to improve the safety of bulk carriers;
  • to apply FSA methodology to the safety of dry bulk shipping; and
  • to secure international collaboration and agreement.

The U.K. is co-ordinating the FSA study, which is expected to take two years. FSA is described as a rational and systematic process for assessing the risks associated with any sphere of activity, and for evaluating the costs and benefits of
different options for reducing those risks. It therefore enables, in its potential application to the rule making process, an objective assessment to be made of the need for, and content of, safety regulations.

FSA consists of five steps:

  • identification of hazards (a list of all relevant accident scenarios with potential causes and outcomes);
  • assessment of risks (evaluation of risk factors);
  • risk control options (devising regulatory measures to control and reduce the identified risks);
  • cost benefit assessment (determining cost effectiveness of each risk control option); and
  • recommendations for decision-making (information about the hazards, their associated risks and the cost effectiveness of alternative risk control options is provided).

Draft 2000 High Speed Craft Code
The MSC will consider the draft International Code of Safety for high-speed craft, 2000 (2000 HSC Code). If approved, it is expected that the text will be circulated and the code will then be adopted n November-December. The existing Code of Safety for High-Speed Craft was adopted in 1992, as part of Chapter X of SOLAS. This entered into force in 1996 but the technology of HSC is evolving so rapidly that the Code has been extensively revised.

Helicopter landing area regulation to apply to ro-ro passenger ships only
The MSC will consider adopting an amendment to SOLAS Chapter III, regulation 28.2 for helicopter landing areas to require a helicopter landing area only for ro-ro passenger ships.

The current regulation requires helicopter landing areas to be fitted to passenger ships of 130 meters in length and upwards constructed on or after 1 July 1999 but the MSC agreed at its last session that this should apply to ro-ro passenger ships only.

The decision to review the existing requirement was made at the 70th session following trial applications of Formal Safety Assessment (FSA) to the requirement.

The original requirement was part of a package of amendments to SOLAS adopted in November 1995, based on proposals put forward by a panel of experts set up following the Ro-ro ferry Estonia disaster of September 1994.

Regulation 28.1 of SOLAS Chapter III requires all ro-ro passenger ships to be provided with a helicopter pick-up area and existing ro-ro passenger ships were required to comply with this regulation not later than the first periodical survey after 1 July 1997. But the requirement for a helicopter landing area for all passenger ships of 130 meters in length and upwards was deferred to 1 July 1999.

The MSC approved a circular recommending that non ro-ro passenger ships of 130 m in length and upwards constructed on or after 1 July 1999 need not be fitted with helicopter landing areas, and this should not constitute a reason for detaining or delaying the ship - since there is a delay between the regulation coming into effect for new ships and the adoption of the amendment making it applicable to ro-ro passenger ships only.

Piracy and armed robbery against ships - review of proposed code
The MSC will review a preliminary draft text of an instrument for the investigation and prosecution of the crime of piracy and armed robbery against ships, prepared by a correspondence group.

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