DECEMBER 5, 2012 — IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) has agreed that rules to require passenger safety drills to take place prior to, or immediately upon, departure should be made mandatory, in the wake of the Costa Concordia incident.
The Committee approved draft amendments to chapter III (Life-saving appliances and arrangements) of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to require musters of newly embarked passengers prior to or immediately upon departure, instead of "within 24 hours", as stated in the current regulations, for a ship engaged on a voyage where passengers are scheduled to be on board for more than 24 hours. The draft amendments will now be circulated for consideration, with a view to adoption, at the next session, MSC 92, in June 2013. They could enter into force at the end of 2014.
The Committee also agreed a revised circular on recommended operational measures, prior to the adoption of any mandatory measures following the analysis of the official marine accident investigation report into the loss of the Costa Concordia.
The revised recommended measures (which will update MSC.1/Circ.1446, agreed at the last session) include: additional guidance on common elements to be included in passenger muster and emergency instructions; recommending that the nationality of each person on board is recorded; guidance on lifeboat loading for training purposes; and that companies owning and/or operating passenger ships and the ship's Master should take steps to ensure that changes to the voyage plan are consistent with Company policies.
The recommended voluntary measures agreed at the last session remain in place, including:
- carrying additional lifejackets, to be readily accessible in public spaces, at the muster/assembly stations, on deck or in lifeboats, so that in the event of an emergency passengers need not return to their cabins to retrieve the lifejacket stored there;
- reviewing the adequacy of the dissemination and communication of the emergency instructions on board ships;
- carrying out the muster for embarking passengers prior to departure from every port of embarkation, if the duration is 24 hours or more;
- limiting access to the bridge to those with operational or operationally related functions, during any period of restricted maneuvering, or while maneuvering in conditions that the master or company bridge procedures/policy deems to require increased vigilance (e.g. arrival/departure from port, heavy traffic, poor visibility); and
- ensuring that the ship's voyage plan has taken into account IMO's Guidelines for voyage planning, and, if appropriate, Guidelines on voyage planning for passenger ships operating in remote areas.
The action plan for long-term work on passenger ship safety, agreed at the last session was also updated, to include additional items on the review of SOLAS regulation III/27, to add the nationality of all persons on board (current regulations already require a count of all passengers and information on their names and gender, distinguishing between adults, children and infants; and information on any passengers requiring special assistance, for search and rescue purposes). Also included in the action plan is a review of resolution A.893(21) Guidelines for voyage planning.
The MSC also adopted amendments to SOLAS regulation III/17-1 to require ships to have plans and procedures to recover persons from the water, as well as related Guidelines for development of plans and procedures for recovery of persons from the water. Also, a related MSC resolution on Implementation of SOLAS regulation III/17-1 to ships other than those engaged in international voyages was adopted. The amendments had been drafted previously and approved at the last session.
The Committee also agreed to include "Passage Ship Training" on the provisional agenda of the Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW 45).
The Government of Italy provided the MSC with the preliminary findings of its on-going investigations into the Costa Concordia. The final casualty investigation report is expected to follow later. IMO is represented, as an observer, on the body overseeing the casualty investigation.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the European Cruise Council (ECC) say they are pleased with the IMO action which, they say, incorporates into SOLAS the cruise industry's recommendation for the mandatory muster of passengers prior to departure from port.
CLIA and ECC say that three other policies being implemented have been taken from the industry's own Global Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review . The three policies address the loading of lifeboats by crewmembers for training purposes, the recording of passenger nationality, and the common elements of musters and emergency instructions. They are now included in IMO guidance specific to Passenger Ship Safety and have been implemented via industry-wide policies.
"The global cruise industry appreciates and shares the unyielding commitment of the IMO, its Secretary-General, the Maritime Safety Committee and the 170 IMO member States around the world to continuously enhance the safety of passengers and crew — our industry's number one priority," said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of CLIA. "Ongoing innovation in safety has been a hallmark of the cruise industry for decades. We remain fully committed as an industry to building on our rich heritage of leadership in improvement of shipboard operations and safety."
"We welcome the decision by the IMO to incorporate key recommendations from the Global Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review into the SOLAS," said Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio, ECC Chairman. "The IMO's decision to incorporate our recommendations into SOLAS, including our February 2012 decision to introduce on a voluntary basis the mandatory muster of passengers prior to departure from port, is an endorsement of the cruise industry's approach to continuous safety improvement. It demonstrates how we as an industry are proactively achieving concrete, practical and significant safety dividends in the shortest possible time. We look forward to continuing to work with the IMO to secure further safety improvements in the future wherever there is scope to do so."