November 28, 2002

IMO set to grapple with major issues
IMO's London headquarters will be bustling next month. The U.N. agency's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meets December 2 through 13, and from December 9 a critical Diplomatic Conference on Maritime Security will run concurrently with the MSC session.

Maritime security will be the major focus of events. But the Prestige disaster off Spain means that MSC is also likely to pay considerable attention to the vexed question of places of refuge for distressed ships. Meantime, MSC has important work to do on an issue that has attracted few headlines outside the maritime media: bulk carrier safety.

The maritime security measures under consideration are likely to have at least as big an impact on the way ships are operated as did all the regulatory changes that ensued in the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Not the least of the changes will be requirements for implementation of a new ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility Security) Code.

The decisions on maritime security made in London next month will be fully examined and explained at Marine Log's Maritime Security conference in Washington, D.C., January 28 & 29, 2003

So, what exactly is on the IMO agenda? The MSC will establish a Working Group on Maritime Security. That group which will consider proposed draft amendments to SOLAS chapters V and XI; the proposed draft International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code; and proposed draft Conference resolutions. The results of these discussions, together with consideration of submissions from Member Governments and international organizations, will be put forward to the Committee itself and to the Conference on Maritime Security.

Piracy and armed robbery against ships The MSC will consider issues relating to piracy and armed robbery at sea, in the context of discussions relating to maritime security in general. The latest statistical data including reports of incidents of armed robbery and piracy at sea will be reviewed as well as the report of an assessment mission and regional meeting on piracy and armed robbery against ships that took place in Ghana, March 25 & 26. Progress on convening regional meetings to promote the case of regional co-operation to tackle piracy and armed robbery will be reviewed, including an update on the United Nations open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea

Bulk carrier safety The MSC will establish a working group to review submissions by Governments and international organizations on various formal safety assessment (FSA) studies on bulk carrier safety that have been completed. The Committee will also consider new SOLAS regulations for adoption.

In hardware terms, what's under consideration are tougher requirements on the following:

Hull envelope Includes issues such as double hull and side-skin construction, improved coatings, steel repair standards, corrosion margins of hold frames, forecastles, bulwark/breakwater structures, ballast system capacity, protection of foredeck fittings, strength and corrosion control of hold frames, coating of internal side skins.

Closing appliances Includes hatch cover re-design and/or reinforcement, fore deck fittings, hatch cover access/closed indicators.

Evacuation Includes water ingress alarms, provision of immersion suits, lifeboats.

Operational issues under consideration include: terminal interface improvement, risk based ESP (Enhanced Survey Program) targeting, PSC (Port State Control) training, weather routeing, improved loading/stability information, making the BC Code mandatory and incorporating a Bulk Carrier Endorsement for officers' qualifications, early implementation of SOLAS Chapter XII.

Bulk carrier safety - SOLAS amendments The changes to SOLAS to be considered include requiring the fitting of high level alarms and level monitoring systems on all bulk carriers, in order to detect abnormal water ingress. The recommendation for the fitting of such alarms was first highlighted at the MSC's session in December 2001, following recommendations of the United Kingdom Report of the reopened formal investigation into the loss of the mv Derbyshire.

The proposed new draft regulation 12 on hold, ballast and dry space water ingress alarms would require the fitting of such alarms on all bulk carriers regardless of their date of construction.

In addition, a proposed new regulation 13 on Availability of pumping systems would require the means for draining and pumping dry space bilges and ballast tanks any part of which is located forward of the collision bulkhead to be capable of being brought into operation from a readily accessible enclosed space.

Bulk carrier safety - Load Lines revision The Committee and Bulk Carrier Safety Working Group are expected to discuss the outcome of the work on the revision of the technical regulations of the 1966 Load Lines Convention by the Sub-Committee on Stability and Load Lines and on Fishing Vessels Safety (SLF).

A number of issues under the Load Lines revision have particular relevance for bulk carrier safety, for inclusion in Annex B to the 1998 Load Line Protocol, including those relating to hatch cover design environmental criteria in a proposed regulation 16-1 (Hatch covers) and a proposed new bow height formula.

Amendments to SOLAS The expanded Committee will consider, for adoption, draft amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, as amended, to chapters II-1, II-2, III and XII and to the INF Code.

Access to spaces in cargo areas of oil tankers and bulk carriers - the draft revised regulation 12-2 in SOLAS chapter II-1 (Construction - structure, subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations), Part B (Subdivision and stability), is intended to ensure that vessels can be properly inspected throughout their lifespan, by designing and building the ship to provide suitable means for access. Without adequate access, the structural condition of the vessel can deteriorate undetected and major structural failure can arise. The regulation would require each space within the cargo area to be provided with an appropriate means of access to enable, throughout the life of a ship, overall and close-up inspections and thickness measurements of the ship's structures to be carried out by the Administration, the Company, as defined in regulation IX/1 and the ship's personnel and others as necessary. Associated draft Technical provisions for means of access for inspections have been prepared and these would be mandatory under the new regulation.

Machinery control - automation systems - The proposed draft amendment to SOLAS chapter II-1 (Construction - structure, subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations), would add a new paragraph to Regulation 31 - Machinery control to require automation systems to be designed in a manner which ensures that threshold warning of impending or imminent slowdown or shutdown of the propulsion system is given to the officer in charge of the navigational watch in time to assess navigational circumstances in an emergency.

Chapter II-2 (Fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction) - The amendments concern references to the IMDG Code and reflect amendments to SOLAS chapter VII (Carriage of Dangerous Goods) adopted in May 2002 which make the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code) mandatory.

Chapter III - Life-saving appliances and arrangements - The proposed draft amendments to Regulation 26 - Additional requirements for ro-ro passenger ships, requires liferafts carried on ro-ro passenger ships to be fitted with a radar transponder in the ratio of one transponder for every four liferafts. The regulation will be made applicable to existing ships as well as new ships.

Water ingress alarms for bulk carriers - the proposed draft new regulations in SOLAS chapter XII - (Additional Safety Measures for Bulk Carriers) are draft regulation 12 on Hold, ballast and dry space water ingress alarms and a new proposed regulation 13 on Availability of pumping systems (see Bulk Carrier safety above).

Amendments to the International Code for the Safe Carriage of Packaged Irradiated Nuclear Fuel, Plutonium and High-Level Radioactive Wastes on board Ships (INF code) - The amendments in the sections on definitions and application reflect amendments to SOLAS chapter VII (Carriage of Dangerous Goods) adopted in May 2002 which make the IMDG Code mandatory.

Places of refuge The Committee will be invited to note the progress report on the draft Guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance. Two draft resolutions prepared by the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation (NAV) will be put forward for submission to the 23rd IMO Assembly scheduled to be held in November 2003, pending further work by the NAV Sub-Committee at its 49th session next year.

The draft Assembly resolutions include a set of Guidelines which state clearly what actions should be taken by ships' Masters, coastal States and Flag States in cases where ships are in need of assistance. They also recommend the establishment by coastal States of Maritime Assistance Services (MAS) to be mobilized in relevant cases. They have been designed to provide a framework by which Governments will be able to assess each case on its merits and make the most appropriate decisions.

IMO's work on places of refuge followed the aftermath of the incident involving the fully laden tanker Castor which, in December 2000, developed a structural problem in the Mediterranean Sea. Following the incident, IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil suggested that the time had come for the Organization to undertake, as a matter of priority, a global consideration of the problem of places of refuge for disabled vessels and adopt any measures required to ensure that, in the interests of safety of life at sea and environmental protection, coastal States reviewed their contingency arrangements so that such ships are provided with assistance and facilities as might be required in the circumstances.

The recent sinking of the Prestige has further highlighted the issue.

Large passenger ship safety The Committee will review ongoing work in a number of Sub-Committees relating to the safety of large passenger ships. The Committee is undertaking a global consideration of safety issues pertaining to these ships.

Implementation of the revised STCW Convention The list of Parties deemed to be giving full and complete effect to the provisions of the revised Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) 1978, as amended, is set to be updated when IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil submits his report on those countries whose evaluations have been completed since the previous MSC meeting.

The MSC will be invited to publish the names of any countries that now qualify to be added to the list.

Casualty investigations - new draft guidelines set for approval The Committee will consider new draft guidelines to help improve co-operation between flag States and other substantially interested States in marine casualty investigation. The draft guidelines were drafted by the Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI) during its 10th session.

Accident investigation reports are a crucial element in any legislative action to enhance safety and environmental protection and in identifying a "compelling need" for new legislation as established in resolution A.500(XII).

The draft Interim Guidelines to assist flag States and other substantially interested States to establish and maintain an effective framework for consultation and co?operation in marine casualty investigations stress the responsibility of States to co-operate in carrying out casualty investigations and take into account specific provisions of the Code for the Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents (Assembly resolution A.849(20) as amended by resolution A.884(21)) as a basis for a global framework of consultation and effective co-operation.

The proposed guidelines include basic recommendations for a functioning authority for casualty investigation which is prepared to co-operate with authorities of other substantially interested States and stress the responsibility of flag States to conduct casualty investigations as required by International Law (references: UNCLOS article 94; SOLAS 74 regulation I/21; MARPOL 73/78 articles 4, 8 and 12; Load Line Convention article 23).

New and amended ships routeing measures and mandatory ship reporting systems The MSC will be invited to consider the adoption of the following new and amended ships routing measures which were agreed by the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation (NAV) at its 48th session in July 2002 (with entry into force six months after adoption, except as mentioned below):

New Traffic Separation Schemes (TSSs) New traffic separation schemes (TSSs) in the southern Red Sea, Off Cape La Nao and Off Cape Palos.

Amendments to existing Traffic Separation Schemes (TSSs) Amendments to the existing TSSs "In the Gulf of Finland", "Bay of Fundy and Approaches" and "In the Strait of Bab-el Mandeb"

Routeing measures other than TSSs Recommended routes Off the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, including recommended tracks and a precautionary area for the Southern Red Sea.

Amendments to the Recommendation on navigation through the entrances to the Baltic Sea (to be implemented on 1 December 2003), including the proposed new recommendation on navigation through the Gulf of Finland traffic.

Mandatory ship reporting systems Two mandatory ship-reporting systems in the Baltic Sea (Gulf of Finland) and in the Adriatic Sea. The new mandatory ship reporting in the Gulf of Finland will be implemented on 1 July 2004


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