Marine Link
Thursday, June 20, 2024

MSC 108 Revises Autonomous Ship Roadmap

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

May 28, 2024

Source: IMO

Source: IMO

The Maritime Safety Committee of the IMO met for its 108th session at IMO Headquarters in London from May 15 to 24, and its outcomes included revising the roadmap for the development of a code to regulate autonomous ships (Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships - MASS).

The Committee approved the report of the third session of the Joint MSC-LEG-FAL Working Group on MASS (MASS-JWG 3) and noted the significant progress made to date to develop the draft MASS Code, including the restructuring of chapters and refining the draft provisions.  

It was clear that more work would be required to finalize the Code and the Committee therefore agreed to the revise the Road Map for the development of a MASS Code, as follows:

• May 2025 - finalize and adopt non-mandatory MASS Code  

• First half of 2026 - develop framework for an experience-building phase (EPB)

• 2028 - commence development of the mandatory MASS Code, based on the non-mandatory Code, and consider amendments to SOLAS (new chapter) for the Code's adoption

• By 1 July 2030 - adoption of the mandatory Code, for entry into force on 1 Jan 2032.

The Committee agreed to re-establish the MSC/MASS-Intersessional Working Group to meet from September 9 to 13, 2024. The Committee also agreed to re-establish the intersessional MASS Correspondence Group to continue its work, and report back to MSC 109 (December 2-6, 2024).

Red Sea

The Committee also adopted a Resolution on the security situation in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden resulting from Houthi attacks on commercial ships and seafarers.  

Since the hijacking of the MV Galaxy Leader in November 2023, which remains detained along with its crew, around 50 dangerous and destabilizing maritime attacks have been carried out in the area. Several seafarers have lost their lives while others have suffered life-changing injuries.

The resolution deplores and condemns in the strongest possible terms the illegal and unjustifiable attacks, which threaten the safety and welfare of seafarers and the marine environment. It demands that the Houthis immediately cease attacking commercial ships and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the Galaxy Leader and its crew.

The resolution emphasizes that all Member States should adhere to their obligations under the targeted UN arms embargo and take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply of arms and related materiel of all types to the Houthis, as called for in United Nations Security Council resolution 2216.

It urges Member States and observer organizations to provide maximum assistance to seafarers affected by attacks. Calling for peaceful dialogue and diplomacy, it urged any party that may have influence with the Houthis to use that influence to seek an end to these attacks.  

The resolution encouraged ship operators and vessels to carefully assess the nature and unpredictability of recent events, as well as potential for continued attacks in the area, when considering transit plans, based on vessel profile, business need and risk tolerance.

Revision of the Guidelines on maritime cyber risk management    

The Committee approved the revised Guidelines on maritime cyber risk management (MSC-FAL.1/Circ.3/Rev.3) and forwarded them to the Facilitation Committee for its concurrent approval.

The guidelines cover standards and best practices for cyber risk management. The revision includes updates related to key definitions, background information and application, functional elements of cyber-risk management (including how to establish a risk management strategy; identify risks; protect computer-based systems; detect, respond to and recover from incidents) and other relevant international and industry standards and best practices.  

Development of a safety regulatory framework to support the reduction of GHG emissions from ships  

The IMO's goal of achieving net zero shipping will require the uptake of zero or near-zero GHG emission technologies, fuels and/or energy sources. Suitable provisions will be needed to ensure the safe operation of these new technologies and alternative fuels on ships.  

The Committee noted the report of the Correspondence Group on the Development of a Safety Regulatory Framework to Support the Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships Using New Technologies and Alternative Fuels, which was established at MSC 107.  

The report outlined a summary list of fuels and technologies that could support the reduction of GHG emissions from ships, as well as an assessment of technical aspects, hazards, and risks to ship/shoreside for each of these listed fuels and technologies. Safety obstacles and gaps in existing regulations were also assessed.  

The Committee invited delegations and international organizations to submit further information and proposals to enhance the list and its annexes.

The Committee re-established the Correspondence Group and instructed it to develop recommendations to address each of the identified barriers and gaps in current IMO instruments that impede the safe use of an alternative fuel or new technology, and report back to MSC 109 and MSC 110. 

The Committee endorsed the agreement by the HTW Sub-Committee to proceed with the development of training provisions for seafarers on ships using alternative fuels.

Addressing violence and harassment in the maritime sector

The Committee adopted draft amendments to the Seafarers' Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Code (STCW Code), which aim to prevent and respond to violence and harassment in the maritime sector, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault. The draft amendments had been approved by MSC 107 and reviewed by the joint ILO/IMO Tripartite Working Group to Identify and Address Seafarers' Issues and the Human Element (JTWG), which met in February 2024.    

The draft amendments are included in table A-VI/1-4 (Specification of minimum standard of competence in personal safety and social responsibilities) of the STCW Code. They outline new mandatory minimum requirements for basic training and instruction for all seafarers. These aim to equip seafarers with knowledge and understanding of violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault, and information on how to prevent and respond to incidents. The amendments to the STCW Code are expected to enter into force on January 1, 2026.  

The Committee approved other recommendations from the JTWG, including the launch of awareness campaigns and other further measures to address violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault, applicable to Administrations, shipping companies, social partners and UN agencies.  

Certification of fishing vessel personnel

The Committee adopted a draft revised annex to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel, 1995 (STCW-F Convention), along with a new mandatory Code on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel Code (STCW-F Code).  

The STCW-F Convention is a binding treaty that sets certification, watchkeeping and minimum training requirements for fishing vessel personnel. 

The revised provisions and the associated new STCW-F Code seek to respond to the current needs of the fishing industry.

They both support the harmonization of qualifications by introducing a minimum level of competence for personnel working on fishing vessels to which the Convention applies. This, in turn, facilitates free mobility of fishing vessel personnel and recognition of certificates between countries that have ratified and implemented the STCW-F Convention.

The amendments to the STCW-F Convention and the new STCW-F Code are expected to enter into force on January 1, 2026.

New guidelines on the medical examination of fishing vessel personnel approved

The Committee approved new draft guidelines on the medical examination of fishing vessel personnel. The draft guidelines had been finalized by the Joint ILO/IMO Working Group (JWG) on Guidelines on the Medical Examination of Fishing Vessel Personnel/Fishers. They aim to improve the process of undertaking medical examination of fishing vessel personnel worldwide, enhancing health and safety of fishing vessel personnel, while contributing to reducing fishing sector accidents and fatalities.  

The guidelines are effective from the date of entry into force of the amendments to the STCW-F Convention and new STCW-F Code.

Amendments to SOLAS

The Committee adopted draft amendments to the following IMO instruments related to safety:

1974 SOLAS Convention

Draft amendments to chapter II-1 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, on the structure of ships, to include a new section requiring emergency towing arrangements to be fitted on ships other than tankers. These amendments are expected to enter into force on January 1, 2028.

Draft amendments to chapters II-2 and V of the SOLAS Convention, on oil fuel parameters other than flashpoint; fire detection within control stations and cargo control rooms; fire safety of ro-ro passenger ships; and reporting of the loss of containers. These amendments are expected to enter into force on January 1, 2026.

IGF Code

Draft amendments to the International Code of Safety for Ships Using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code), including regulations pertaining to specific requirements for ships using natural gas as fuel; bunkering operations; and manufacture and testing for the fuel containment system. These amendments are expected to enter into force on January 1, 2026.

Grain Code

Draft amendments to the International Code for the Safe Carriage of Grain in Bulk (Grain Code), introducing a new class of loading conditions for special compartments. These amendments are expected to enter into force on January 1, 2026.

2011 ESP Code

Draft amendments to the International Code on the Enhanced Programme of Inspections during Surveys of Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers, 2011 (2011 ESP Code), regarding procedures for approval and certification of a firm engaged in thickness measurement of hull structures. These amendments are expected to enter into force on January 1, 2026.

LSA Code

Draft amendments to the International Life-Saving Appliance (LSA) Code, regarding the in-water performance of lifejackets; single fall and hook systems; and lowering speed of survival craft and rescue boats. These amendments are expected to enter into force on January 1, 2026.

FSS Code

Draft amendments to the International Code for Fire Safety Systems (FSS Code), with regards to fire safety of ro-ro passenger ships. These amendments are expected to enter into force on January 1, 2026.

IMDG Code

Draft amendments to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG), with updates throughout the document including foreword, preamble, parts 1 to 7, appendices and index. These amendments are expected to enter into force January 1, 2026.

Capacity-building

The Committee agreed that there may be capacity-building implications and a need for technical cooperation or assistance in relation to the draft amendments to SOLAS chapters II-1, II-2 and V; the FSS Code, the IMDG Code; the STCW Code; the STCW-F Convention and the new STCW-F Code.  

The Committee advised the Technical Cooperation Committee accordingly and encouraged Member States in need of capacity-building assistance in relation to these amendments to contact the IMO Secretariat.

Other mandatory instruments

The Committee adopted:  

• draft amendments to the Performance standard for protective coatings for dedicated seawater ballast tanks in all types of ships and double-side skin spaces of bulk carriers (resolution MSC.215(82))

• draft amendments to the Performance standard for protective coatings for cargo oil tanks of crude oil tankers (resolution MSC.288(87))

• draft amendments to the Requirements for maintenance, thorough examination, operational testing, overhaul and repair of lifeboats and rescue boats, launching appliances and release gear (resolution MSC.402(96))  

The above amendments are expected to enter into force on January 1,2026.

Piracy and armed robbery

The Committee heard an update from the Secretariat on piracy reports for 2023. According to information received and made available in IMO's GISIS module, 150 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported to IMO as having occurred or been attempted in 2023. In 2022, 131 incidents were reported, indicating a 15% increase from 2022 to 2023.

The areas most affected by acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2023 were the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (85), West Africa (22), South China Sea (14) and South America (Pacific) (14), followed by Indian Ocean (5), South America (Caribbean) (4), Arabian Sea (2), East Africa (2), South America (Atlantic) (1) and Mediterranean Sea (1).

Further details will be provided in the Secretariat's Reports on acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships (including Annual Report for 2023).

The Committee noted IMO’s work to address piracy and armed robbery at the regional level. This includes initiatives such as the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP-ISC), the Djibouti Code of Conduct (with Jeddah Amendment), covering the Western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, and the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, covering the Gulf of Guinea.  

It encouraged Member States to continue to support the Djibouti Code of Conduct Trust Fund, assist Yaoundé Code of Conduct implementation efforts in the Gulf of Guinea, and consider making financial contributions to the West and Central Africa Trust Fund.

Reports from Sub-Committees and other issues

The Committee considered reports from its Sub-Committees, approved these reports in general and took the following actions:
Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW)  

• approved the list of specific areas; methodology; and roadmap for the comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code

• approved the establishment of an intersessional working group on the Comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code

• approved the inclusion of 22 competent persons recommended by two Parties in the List of competent persons maintained by the Secretary-General. These individuals may be called upon to serve on panels that review information about Member States' compliance with the STCW Convention. They submit their findings to the IMO Secretary-General who, in turn, reports to MSC on the Parties which fully comply (“white list”).  

Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC)  

• approved the Interim guidelines for use of LPG cargo as fuel  

• endorsed the updated work plan for the development of technical provisions for safety of ships using new alternative fuels, including the holding of an intersessional working group on development of technical provisions for safety of ships using alternative fuels to be held from 9 to 13 September 2024, immediately prior to CCC 10  

• approved the Revised guidelines on the application of high manganese austenitic steel for cryogenic service (MSC.1/Circ.1599/Rev.2)

• approved the Revised guidelines for the acceptance of alternative metallic materials for cryogenic service in ships carrying liquefied gases in bulk and ships using gases or other low-flashpoint fuels (MSC.1/Circ.1622)

• adopted the Revised interim recommendations for carriage of liquefied hydrogen in bulk  

• approved draft amendments to the IGC Code (paragraph 16.9.2 on the use of cargo as fuel in relation to alternative fuel and technologies), with a view to adoption at MSC 109, and entry into force on 1 July 2026.

Implementation of IMO Instruments (III)  

• endorsed, concurrently with the decision by MEPC, the issuance of III.3/Circ.10 on Casualty Analysis and Statistics containing observations on reports of investigation into casualties

• endorsed, concurrently with the decision by MEPC, the issuance of III.3/Circ.11 on Development of lessons learned by Marine Safety Investigating State for promotion of awareness of the expectation to fill the field on the Lessons Learned, along with a marine safety investigation

• endorsed the issuance of III.3/Circ.12 on Casualty investigation questionnaire on fishing vessel collisions for further analysis of the safety issue by the Correspondence Group on the Analysis of Marine Investigation Reports

• approved, concurrently with the decision by MEPC, the draft MSC-MEPC.2 circular on Guidance in relation to the IMO Member State Audit Scheme (IMSAS) to assist in the implementation of the III Code by Member States

• regarding appropriate language applied in ship's certificates, agreed that the names of ships, companies, and addresses should be considered as administrative information and might be in special characters of the national official language of a Member State.

Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR)  

• approved the Recognition of ship reporting system in the Pentland Firth (PENTREP) (SN.1/Circ.343) to be implemented on 1 December 2024

• approved the Descriptions of Maritime Services in the context of e-navigation (MSC.1/Circ.1610/Rev.1)  

• adopted resolution MSC.530(106)/Rev.1 on Performance standards for electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS)  

• approved the Joint IMO/IHO/WMO Manual on Maritime Safety Information (MSC.1/Circ.1310/Rev.2) to be implemented as from 1 January 2025  
Ship Design and Construction (SDC)  

• approved the Revised guidelines on alternative design and arrangements for SOLAS chapters II-1 and III (MSC.1/Circ.1212/Rev.2)

• approved the Unified interpretations of SOLAS chapters II-1 and XII, of the Technical provisions for means of access for inspections (resolution MSC.158(78)) and of the Performance standards for water level detectors on ships subject to SOLAS regulations II-1/25 and 25 1, and XII/12 (resolution MSC.188(79)/Rev.2) (MSC.1/Circ.1572/Rev.2)  

• approved new Unified interpretation of SOLAS regulation XV/5.1 and paragraph 3.5 of part 1 of the International Code of Safety for Ships Carrying Industrial Personnel (IP Code) on the harmonization of the Industrial Personnel Safety Certificate with SOLAS safety certificates

• approved the Unified interpretations of the Code on Noise Levels on Board Ships (resolution MSC.337(91)) (MSC.1/Circ.1509/Rev.1)

• approved the Unified interpretations of SOLAS regulations II-2/9 and II-2/13 (MSC.1/Circ.1511/Rev.1).