IMO top story: MSC 94 preview

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Preview: Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 94th session, 17-21 November 2014

Briefing: 37,  November 12, 2014
IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), which meets at the Organization’s London headquarters for its 94th session, from 17 to 21 November 2014,  is expected to adopt the Polar Code and related amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to make it mandatory.  
The MSC will also have a number of other items on its busy agenda, including approval of the draft SOLAS amendments to make mandatory the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code); further work on its action plan on passenger ship safety; and the consideration of items put forward by the sub-committees.
Draft mandatory Polar Code and SOLAS amendments to be considered for adoption
The MSC will be invited to consider, with a view to adoption, the draft International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code), and the proposed draft new SOLAS chapter XIV “Safety measures for ships operating in polar waters”, to make the Code (Preamble, Introduction and Part I-A (Safety measures)) mandatory.
The draft SOLAS amendments were approved at the last session, with a view to adoption at the current session, along with the Polar Code.
The Polar Code contains additional design, construction, equipment, operational, training, and search and rescue requirements for ships operating in the harsh environment of Arctic and Antarctic waters, with the aim of preventing accidents and pollution, and protecting ships, seafarers and passengers.
Because it contains both safety and environment related provisions, the Polar Code will be mandatory under both SOLAS and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). Last month (October 2014), IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC​) approved the necessary draft amendments to make the environmental provisions in the the Polar Code mandatory under MARPOL. The MEPC is expected to adopt the Code and associated MARPOL amendments at its next session in May 2015, with an entry-into-force date to be aligned with the SOLAS amendments, likely to be 1 January 2017.
Adoption of other amendments
The MSC will also be invited to consider, for adoption:
• Draft amendments to SOLAS chapter VI to require mandatory verification of the gross mass of containers;
• Draft amendments to add a new SOLAS regulation XI-1/7 on Atmosphere testing instrument for enclosed spaces, to require ships to carry an appropriate portable atmosphere testing instrument or instruments, capable of measuring concentrations of oxygen, flammable gases or vapours, hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide, prior to entry into enclosed spaces; and
• Draft amendments to update the International Code on the Enhanced Programme of Inspections During Surveys of Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers (2011 ESP Code), including revisions to the minimum requirements for cargo tank testing at renewal survey and addition of a new paragraph on rescue and emergency response equipment in relation to breathing apparatus.
Work to continue on passenger ship safety
The MSC is expected to continue its ongoing work related to passenger ship safety and update its long-term action plan. Submissions relating to computerized stability support for the master in case of flooding; plans for co-operation between search and rescue services and passenger ships; and watertight doors are among those put forward for discussion.
The outcome of the Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III) will be reported to the MSC on the casualty report on the Costa Concordia. The Sub-Committee agreed to the need for comprehensive risk assessment, passage planning and position monitoring; effective bridge resource management; and to remove distractions; and that IMO should consider the protection of propulsion and electrical production compartments; the functional integrity of essential systems; the improvement and redundancy of emergency power generation; the detection and monitoring system interfacing with on-board stability computer; the inclusion of inclinometer measurements within the voyage date recorder (VDR); more detailed assessment criteria for recognizing manning agencies, and the appropriate assignment of trained crew to emergency duties.
Draft IGF code set for approval
The MSC will be invited to approve, with a view to subsequent adoption, the draft International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code), along with proposed amendments to make the Code mandatory under SOLAS.
The IGF Code will provide mandatory provisions for the arrangement, installation, control and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems using low-flashpoint fuels, focusing on liquefied natural gas (LNG),  to minimize the risk to the ship, its crew and the environment, having regard to the nature of the fuels involved.
The Code addresses all areas that need special consideration for the usage of low-flashpoint fuels, based on a goal-based approach, with goals and functional requirements specified for each section forming the basis for the design, construction and operation of ships using this type of fuel.
E-navigation strategy to be approved
The MSC is expected to approve the e-navigation Strategy Implementation Plan (SIP), which provides a framework and a road-map of tasks that would need to be implemented or conducted in the future to give effect to five prioritized e-navigation solutions:
• improved, harmonized and user-friendly bridge design;
• means for standardized and automated reporting;
• improved reliability, resilience and integrity of bridge equipment and navigation information;
• integration and presentation of available information in graphical displays received via communication equipment; and
• improved communication of vessel traffic services (VTS) Service Portfolio (not limited to VTS stations).
A total of 18 tasks have been identified for development and completion during the period 2015 to 2019. The MSC will also be invited to approve Guidelines on Harmonization of test beds reporting, aimed at harmonizing the way the results of e-navigation testbeds are reported to the Organization.
Other issues
In connection with other issues arising from the reports of IMO sub-committees and other bodies, the MSC will be invited to:
• Adopt a number of new and amended ships’ routeing measures and an amended ship reporting system;
• Adopt amendments to the Code for the Construction and Equipment of Mobile Offshore Drilling Units, 2009 (2009 MODU Code), to allow an alternative procedure for lifeboat launching and manoeuvring drills;
• Adopt an amendment to the recommendation on conditions for the approval of servicing stations for inflatable liferafts (resolution A.761(18)), in relation to checking date-expired items in the contents of packed inflatable liferafts;
• Approve, for future adoption, draft amendments to SOLAS regulations II-2/4.5 and II-2/11.6, clarifying the provisions related to the secondary means of venting cargo tanks in order to ensure adequate safety against over- and under-pressure in the event of cargo tank isolation valve being damaged or inadvertently closed, and SOLAS regulation II-2/20, with respect to the air quality control system;
• Recognize the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), operated by China, as a component of World-Wide Radionavigation System (WWRNS);
• Approve draft Informative Material related to the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for the Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code);
• Approve the draft revised Guide to recovery techniques;
• Consider draft Guidelines for the development of national maritime security legislation, developed by a correspondence group;
• Approve the revised and updated Joint IMO/International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)/ World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Manual on Maritime Safety Information;
• Approve the draft Assembly resolution on Revised guidelines for the onboard operational use of shipborne automatic identification systems (AIS), for submission to the next IMO Assembly for adoption, to update earlier guidelines (first adopted in 2001 and revised in 2003);
• Approve revised MSC.1/Circ.1210 on Guidance on Cospas-Sarsat International 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database (IBRD);
• Consider and decide on which independent body should produce a technical and operational assessment of the satellite communications company Iridium as a Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) mobile satellite service provider;
• Approve the draft MSC-MEPC.5 circular on Unified interpretation on keel laying date for fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) craft;
• Approve a number of amendments to LRIT-related circulars to improve the functioning and operation of the LRIT system and related procedures;
• Consider a proposal to develop voluntary guidelines on cyber security practices to protect and enhance the resiliency of cyber systems supporting the operations of ports, vessels, marine facilities and other elements of the maritime transportation system; and
• Review progress made on the implementation of the goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers.


IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

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