IMO's MEPC endorses IACS structural rules

MAY 16, 2016 — For the first time, IMO has been given a role in auditing and verifying the structural rules developed by classification societies for new-build oil tankers and bulk carriers.

At its recently concluded 96th session, IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) confirmed that the IACS Common Structural Rules for oil tankers and bulk carriers submitted by 12 classification societies conform to the goals and functional requirements set by IMO for new oil tankers and bulk carriers.

The philosophy behind goal-based standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers is that ships should be designed and constructed for a specified design life and that, if properly operated and maintained, they should remain safe and environmentally friendly throughout their service life.

Regulation II-1/3-10 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) applies the philosophy to new oil tankers and bulk carriers over 150 m in length. Under the regulation, such ships must have adequate strength, integrity and stability to minimize the risk of loss of the ship or pollution to the marine environment due to structural failure, including collapse, resulting in flooding or loss of watertight integrity.

The MSC reviewed goal-based standards verification audit reports on 12 Recognized Organizations (ROs) which are members of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS). The audits were carried out by teams of experts nominated by IMO Member States.

The Committee confirmed that the construction rules submitted were in conformity with the goals and functional requirements set out in the International goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers. The MSC also confirmed that ships contracted under the current verified rules are deemed to meet the goal-based standards amendments in the SOLAS regulation. These were adopted in 2010 and entered into force in 2012, with a date of 1 July 2016 set for application to new oil tankers and bulk carriers.

IACS said that IMO's recognition that the IACS Common Structural Rules conform to the goals and functional requirements set down by the MSC "is a powerful endorsement that class rules provide for the design and construction of ships that, in combination with proper operation and maintenance, will meet the mission of safety of life, property and protection of the environment throughout their service life."

IACS Chairman Christopher J. Wiernicki commented: "This monumental decision is the direct result of IACS and IMO collaboration which represents a new era in maritime safety. This IMO recognition, ahead of the entry into force of the relevant SOLAS amendment on July 1, 2016, reinforces IACS' trusted technical advisory role.

"IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said the verification process which had now been completed was a significant step for IMO, since until now, there had been no direct oversight by IMO of the classification societies' structural rules.

"The completion of this process of developing goal-based standards for oil tankers and bulk carriers, followed by the detailed verification audit process, means that we now have a much closer alignment between the classification societies' rules and the IMO regulatory process. This marks a very significant development in the IMO rule making process," Mr. Lim said.

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