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May 11, 2004

MSC faces hefty workload

Implementation of the new maritime security measures adopted by IMO in 2002 will be high on the agenda when the UN agency's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meets in London for its 78th session from May 12-21, 2004. But there are also several other important issues under consideration. These include adoption of amendments to the SOLAS and SAR Conventions relating to the treatment of persons in distress at sea; and issues related to the safety of bulk carriers and to large passenger ship safety.

Implementation of maritime security measures, ISPS Code

Issues relating to the implementation of the maritime security measures that enter into force on July 1, 2004 include:

  • Guidelines on Control and Compliance Measures to Enhance Maritime Security;
  • Long-range identification and tracking of vessels;
  • Designation of the Master as the Ship Security Officer; and
  • Publication of the IMO/ILO Code of Practice on Security in Ports.

Large passenger ship safety

The MSC is expected to reestablish the ad hoc Working Group on Large Passenger Ship Safety. It will also consider the outcome of the work of Sub-Committees that have been assigned tasks on large passenger ship safety.

MSC will also consider what IMO calls "the holistic approach" to large passenger ship safety issues, in particular the preparation of casualty scenarios necessitating a return to port and timeframes related to abandonment and recovery.

Human element

The Committee has agreed to re-convene the Joint MSC/MEPC Working Group on the Human Element. The working group is expected to start preparing a strategic plan addressing the human element in maritime safety, environmental protection and security.

Goal-based new ship construction standards

The MSC is will look at the concept of IMO developing "goal-based" standards for ships' construction and equipment. The premise is that IMO should play a larger role in determining the fundamental standards to which new ships are built. IMO would not take over the detailed work of the classification societies, but would state what has to be achieved, leaving classification societies, ship designers and naval architects, marine engineers and shipbuilders the freedom to decide on how best to meet the required standards.

Bulk carrier safety

The MSC is expected to consider a number of issues relating to bulk carrier safety, including a proposal to review its earlier decision to make double-side skins mandatory for new bulk carriers.

Proposed amendments to SOLAS chapter XII (Additional safety measures for bulk carriers) will be considered for approval, with a view to subsequent adoption at MSC 79 in December 2004.

The draft amendments propose the replacement of the existing text of chapter XII with a new text incorporating revisions to some regulations and new requirements relating to double-side skin bulk carriers, including whether or not new bulk carriers of 150 m in length and over, carrying solid bulk cargoes having a density of 1,000 kg/m3 and above, should be of double-side skin construction; and the addition of a new regulation 14 on restrictions from sailing with any hold empty.

Permanent means of access--draft SOLAS amendments

Proposed draft amendments to SOLAS regulation 3 6 in chapter II-1 (Construction - Subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations) on Access to and within spaces in the cargo area of oil tankers and bulk carriers (resolution MSC.134(76)) and to the associated Technical Provisions for means of access for inspections (resolution MSC.133(76)) will be considered.

Persons rescued at sea--amendments to SOLAS and SAR

The MSC (expanded to include all SOLAS Parties) is expected to adopt amendments to the SOLAS and SAR Conventions concerning the treatment of persons rescued at sea, and/or asylum seekers, refugees and stowaways.

The draft amendments include:

SOLAS: to add a definition of search and rescue services; to set an obligation to provide assistance, regardless of nationality or status of persons in distress, and mandate coordination and cooperation between States to assist the ship's master in delivering persons rescued at sea to a place of safety; and to add a new regulation on master's discretion.

SAR: addition of a new paragraphs relating to definition of person in distress and of new paragraphs in chapter 3 (Cooperation between States) relating to assistance to the master in delivering persons rescued at sea to a place of safety.

The MSC will also be invited to adopt related Guidance to Governments and to shipmasters relating to the treatment of persons rescued at sea. The aim is to provide guidance with regard to humanitarian obligations and obligations under the relevant international law.

Preventing accidents with lifeboats--amendments to SOLAS

The expanded MSC will be invited to adopt amendments to SOLAS chapter III (Life-saving appliances and arrangements) which are intended to help prevent accidents with lifeboats during drills.

The MSC will also be invited to approve circulars on the prevention of accidents in high free-fall launching, guidelines for safe practices during abandon-ship drills using lifeboats, and guidelines for simulated launching of free-fall lifeboats.

Carriage of immersion suits--amendments to SOLAS

Proposed amendments to SOLAS will make changes to the number of immersion suits to be carried on all cargo ships. The amendments are intended to introduce carriage requirements for one immersion suit per person on board all cargo ships, including bulk carriers. With the adoption of the proposed amendments, immersion suits will become, as lifejackets, a personal life-saving appliance for each person on board thus offering a better thermal protection and improved chance of survival and rescue.

IMDG Code amendments including security

The MSC will be invited to adopt amendments to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. The amendments update the Code in several sections relating to the carriage of dangerous goods and include a proposed new chapter 1.4 on Security Provisions intended to address the security of dangerous goods in transport by sea.

Implementation of the revised STCW Convention

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

The MSC will be invited to publish an updated list of Parties deemed to be giving "full and complete effect" to the provisions of the Convention.

Piracy and armed robbery against ships

The MSC will review the reports on incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships submitted to IMO and consider developments in the implementation of the coordinated plan of action to tackle piracy and armed robbery against ships through regional agreements.

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