The fifth in a series of papers providing an overview of topical shipping issues. Future articles will cover immigration issues in the Mediterranean and e-navigation.
Normally, during the early part of each year 5 IMO sub committees meet. These report to the two main technical safety and environmental committees (Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC)). This paper provides a read out and comment from the five sub committees.
Pollution, Prevention and Response (PPR) 19 to 23 Jan
Agreement was achieved on the definition of Black Carbon and amendments to the Guidelines for the development of an Inventory of Hazardous Materials. Regarding ballast water, the lobbying efforts of the shipping industry proved fruitful at this session as the industry’s paper that sought clarification of the term ‘’same location’’ and suggested the introduction of the term ‘’same risk area’’ in the context of exemptions, received considerable support. This will give some confidence to the short sea sector that this may be resolved before the Convention enters into force.
Another key success for industry was agreement to exempt gas carriers fitted with dual fuel engines from operating in a Tier III condition in NOx Emission Control Areas (NECA), following building or before and after dry docking when the ship’s next loading port is located either inside or outside a NECA area. This positive outcome is a pragmatic solution which will save the industry millions, as gas carriers fitted with dual fuel engines will not be required to install selective catalytic reduction systems which otherwise may have been required to operate only once every 2.5 years.
Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) 2 to 6 Feb
The main items for consideration were a proposal to revise guidelines on fatigue mitigation and management, a proposal for new training requirements for personnel on passenger vessels and guidelines for port State control officers on the ISM Code
With respect to the Guidelines for port State control officers on the ISM Code, it was agreed to modify the term “serious failure” by replacing with “failure that poses a serious threat to the safety of personnel or the ship or a serious risk to the environment”. This was considered to be consistent with the terminology used in the ISM Code.
The Sub-Committee considered proposals by Australia and others to revise the Guidelines on fatigue mitigation and management. The existing guidelines were developed in the 1990s and there was significant merit in revising these due to considerable experience gained through scientific research on fatigue and sleep patterns since the publication of the guidelines.
Following a US proposal to review passenger ship specific training, it was agreed that passenger ship crowd management training would be applicable to suitably qualified masters, officers and ratings and other personnel designated on the muster list.
Ship Design and Construction (SDC) 16 to 20 Feb
A proposal to introduce anti-crushing devices on watertight doors to protect people during routine operation was discussed. The matter was sent to MSC 95 for further consideration. The circumstances under which watertight doors may remain open at sea in passenger ships was also discussed. It was agreed that Category A, those doors allowed to be open at all times, should be removed.
The US has proposed a double hull in main engine-rooms to improve the availability of power supply in cases of flooding from side raking damage. Further discussion is needed if this is to progress. New passenger ships are now required to have a computer, either onboard or ashore, to assist in the calculation of stability following flooding.
On the use of fire retardant plastics (FRPs), it was noted that fire integrity had been looked at, but there is ongoing concern that toxicity and loss of structural strength in a fire situation has not been properly considered.
Guidelines for the carriage of industrial personnel received much attention and will be welcomed. Options were amending and mandating the SPS Code or an amendment to Chapter I of SOLAS. Direction will be sought from MSC. The issue of the hydrostatic testing of tanks for ships in build was debated. Exemptions from testing would need to be obtained from flag administrations.
Unfortunately, though there was some support for a reduced gross tonnage parameter for crew accommodation spaces for assessing fees, the draft resolution was not agreed.
Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) 9 to 13 Mar
In his opening remarks, the Secretary General of the IMO made reference to the 3,000 migrants that had died in attempts to cross the Mediterranean over the last year. 200,000 had been rescued and this figure was projected to rise to 400,000, presenting a significant challenge to shipping.
It was announced that Galileo, the EU’s future satellite navigation system, has been further delayed due to recent problems with the launch programme.
E-navigation received relatively little attention in plenary with the main effort being to produce combined guidelines on software quality assurance, human centred design and usability testing, evaluation and assessment. These will be approved at MSC95.
Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE) 23 to 27 Mar
Draft performance standards for smoke management systems were agreed and once approved by MSC will apply to new passenger ships. The allowable level of smoke in relation to the survival and safe evacuation of passengers was discussed and whether standards used in buildings ashore were appropriate. Further work will be under taken by correspondence group. Regarding ventilation of closed vehicle / ro-ro decks and special category spaces, draft amendments to SOLAS were agreed that will allow air quality management systems to be used in lieu of running fans continuously. This will apply to new and existing vessels and should lead to significant energy savings.
There was much debate about the testing of onboard lifting appliances following reports of numerous accidents, including fatalities due to poor maintenance of this equipment. Recent evidence did not appear to support the case and opinion was divided as to whether any new requirement should be included in either the ISM Code or in the form of an amendment to SOLAS. In the event, the majority did favour inclusion in SOLAS. For UK registered ships, the proposed requirements are already in place and so any change is likely to be administrative only.
There had been a proposal to fit double sheathing to pipework on low pressure fuel injection systems in oil tankers. This was dismissed as being unnecessary, with control measures such as improving the quality of and reducing the number of pipe joints being more appropriate.
In light of the demand for low sulphur fuels following establishment of sulphur ECAs, it was proposed that to improve supply, diesel used for transport ashore, which has a lower flash point of 52 deg C, could be used. However, such fuels would not be compliant with SOLAS which requires a minimum of 60 deg C. The issue will be considered under the IGF correspondence group.
The requirement for the periodic servicing of lifeboat and associated release gear was discussed at length. It was stated that STCW qualified engineers onboard were capable of undertaking much of the work, rather than it being purely down to the manufacturers. A tiered approach, with suitably certified ship’s staff and manufacturers’ representatives undertaking the tasks, was generally agreed. Further work is needed.