IMO's MSC Meeting Approves Important SOLAS Amendments

By George Backwell
Monday, June 02, 2014
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IMO informs that its Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) has adopted important SOLAS amendments related to inert gas systems as well as amendments to a number of treaties to bring into force the mandatory IMO audit scheme. In addition it has approved, in principle, the draft Polar Code and related amendments to make the Code mandatory under SOLAS, with a view to formal adoption at its next session in November. Main points agreed by the Committee as follows:

The MSC met at the Organization's London headquarters for its 93rd session, from 14 to 23 May 2014.

Polar Code and SOLAS amendments approved
The MSC approved, for consideration with a view to adoption at its November 2014 session (MSC 94), the draft new SOLAS chapter XIV “Safety measures for ships operating in polar waters”, which would make mandatory the Introduction and part I-A of the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (the Polar Code).

The MSC also approved, in principle, the draft Polar Code, with a view to adoption in conjunction with the adoption of the associated draft new SOLAS chapter XIV.

Matters related to the safety of navigation and communication were referred to the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR), which meets in July, for finalization of the relevant chapters.

The draft Polar Code covers the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in the inhospitable waters surrounding the two poles.

Mandatory audit scheme amendments adopted

  • The MSC completed the legal framework for the implementation of the mandatory IMO audit scheme, with the adoption of amendments to the following treaties to make mandatory the use of the IMO Instruments Implementation Code (III Code) and auditing of Parties to those treaties:
  • SOLAS, 1974, as amended (adding a new chapter XIII)
  • the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, and the Seafarers' Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Code
  • the Protocol of 1988 relating to the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 (1988 Load Lines Protocol), as amended.

This follows the adoption, by the IMO Assembly at its twenty-eighth session, of similar amendments to:

  • the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, as amended (COLREG 1972), the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 (LL 1966)
  • the International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships, 1969 (TONNAGE 1969), (following the procedures for adoption of amendments for the COLREG 1972, LL 1966 and Tonnage 1969 conventions).

The MSC also adopted the following amendments to SOLAS:

  • amendments to SOLAS regulation II-1/29 on steering gear, to update the requirements relating to sea trials
  • amendments to SOLAS regulations II-2/4, II-2/3, II-2/9.7 and II-2/16.3.3, to introduce mandatory requirements for inert gas systems on board new oil and chemical tankers of 8,000 dwt and above, and for ventilation systems on board new ships; related amendments to the International Code for Fire Safety Systems (FSS Code) on inert gas systems were also adopted
  • amendments to SOLAS regulation II-2/10, concerning fire protection requirements for new ships designed to carry containers on or above the weather deck
  • amendments to SOLAS regulation II-2/13.4, mandating additional means of escape from machinery spaces
  • new SOLAS regulation II-2/20-1 Requirement for vehicle carriers carrying motor vehicles with compressed hydrogen or natural gas for their own propulsion, which sets additional requirements for ships with vehicle and ro-ro spaces intended for the carriage of motor vehicles with compressed hydrogen or compressed natural gas in their tanks as fuel

The above SOLAS amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2016.

The MSC also adopted:

  • amendment 37-14 to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, together with the approval of relevant supplements (entry into force date of 1 January 2016)
  • amendments to the International Life-Saving Appliance  (LSA) Code related to the testing of lifejackets (entry into force date 1 January 2016).

Passenger ships safety: revised action plan agreed
The MSC agreed a revised long-term action plan on passenger ship safety, following extensive discussion in a working group on passenger ship safety.

A number of matters relating to damage stability and survivability of passenger ships were referred to the Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC) for further work, including those related to the operation of watertight doors and consideration of double hull requirements in way of engine rooms. 

The SDC was also instructed to consider the need to develop new SOLAS amendments to require damage control drills for passenger ships.

The Sub-Committee on Human Element and Training (HTW) was instructed to include enhanced damage stability training in its planned outputs.

Revised IGC Code adopted

The revised International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (the IGC Code) was adopted by the MSC.  The completely revised and updated Code has been developed following a comprehensive five-year review and is intended to take into account the latest advances in science and technology. It will enter into force on 1 January 2016, with an implementation/application date of 1 July 2016.

Safety of container ships - weight verification amendments approved
The MSC approved, for adoption at MSC 94 in November, draft amendments to SOLAS chapter VI to require mandatory verification of the gross mass of containers, either by weighing the packed container or by weighing all packages and cargo items and adding the tare mass. The Committee also approved related draft guidelines regarding the verified gross mass of a container carrying cargo, to be issued as an MSC circular.

Lifeboat safety: amendments to SOLAS chapter III
The MSC, noting a number of inconsistencies between the requirements of the draft amendments to SOLAS regulations III/3 and 20 and the draft MSC resolution on Requirements for periodic servicing and maintenance of lifeboats and rescue boats, launching appliances and release gear, agreed to refer these draft amendments to the Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE) for further consideration.

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