As a result of the debate under Item 5 at the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 78), the industry finally has an agreement which removes the mandated requirement for bulk carriers of LOA>150m to be built according to an approved double side skin design.
Back in May 2002, MSC 75 developed a preliminary list of recommendations for decision-making, of which the requirement for future bulk carriers to be built to double side skin construction was high on the list. A number of Formal Safety Assessment (FSA) studies were completed to arrive at this conclusion and the decision was subsequently taken at MSC 76 to make double side skin construction mandatory at a time in the future to be decided. It was expected that the requirement would be effective from late 2006 or 2007.
At MSC 77 (5-6/03), the Greek administration let it be known that it was unhappy with a number of issues concerning the FSA studies and it undertook to provide a critique to review the work completed. In the event it appointed a team from Strathclyde University to conduct the study and its appraisal was submitted to MSC 78.
The debate was opened with two submissions - one from Greece and one from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). There followed a vigorous debate including powerful interventions from INTERCARGO and others. Support for a mandatory double skin requirement was promoted in general by Flag States in the West, including Japan, whereas the opposition was centred on Flag States from the East and in the Southern Hemisphere.
In the event, the Chairman of MSC requested a ballot, which was taken by a show of cards on the specific issue of the deletion of Regulation 6.2 in the proposed amendments to SOLAS Chapter XII i.e. deletion of the mandatory requirement for double side skin. 32 countries favoured deletion, 22 countries supported inclusion, 15 countries abstained. This vote was taken on the basis of a simple majority decision and demonstrated the lack of support at IMO for the mandatory requirement for double side skin construction for bulk carriers in the future.
This decision effectively closes the debate and there is now no requirement for bulk carriers of >150m LOA and upwards carrying solid bulk cargoes having a density of 1000 kg/m3 and above to be of double side skin construction.
However, IACS will continue with its work to provide Common Rules for the construction of double side skin bulk carriers since there is nothing to stop owners using this design if they so wish for their own commercial reasons.
INTERCARGO believes this is a very satisfactory outcome which enables the industry to move forward to encourage the design, construction and operation of robust ships which are fit for the purpose intended. However, owners may now choose whether they wish to build ships with double side skin or single side skin.