Piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean will be high on the agenda when IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meets at the Organization’s London Headquarters for its 90th session from 16 to 25 May 2012.
A High-Level Segment will be held on the opening day (16 May), intended to provide an opportunity for a full policy debate among Member Governments on how the international community should deal with issues related to the deployment of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) on board ships and the carriage of arms on board.
The MSC has also received a number of submissions under the agenda item on “passenger ship safety”, which was added to the agenda in the wake of the Costa Concordia incident in January.
The busy agenda further includes the adoption of amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and consideration of other items submitted by the IMO Sub-Committees.
Piracy and armed robbery against ships
The high-level policy debate on arms on board ships, scheduled to take place on the first day of the MSC session, is expected to focus on a number of issues, including:
• how Governments, either as flag States, coastal States, port States or States whose nationals are employed as seafarers, should acknowledge the actual situation and current developments with regard to employment of PCASP on board ships navigating in the high-risk area and whether they should allow PCASP under their national laws;
• whether Governments, particularly coastal and port States, should allow passage of foreign ships with PCASP through their territorial waters; and whether any practical international guidance should be developed for the handling and treatment of firearms and PCASP on board ships navigating in territorial waters, including in ports of those States which have not yet established national policies in dealing with arms on board ships; and
• whether Governments should establish international guidelines on the use of firearms against suspected pirates.
The MSC will also review interim guidance for port and coastal States; flag States; and shipowners, ship operators and shipmasters on the use of PCASP on board ships to counter Somali-based piracy. This was approved by the Intersessional Maritime Security and Piracy Working Group of the MSC, which met in September 2011.
Proposed Interim Guidance to private maritime security companies (PMSC) providing privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) aboard vessels transiting the high-risk area off the east coast of Africa will also be considered.
Passenger ship safety
The MSC will consider a number of submissions relating to passenger ship safety, after the item was added onto the agenda in the wake of the Costa Concordia incident off the coast of Italy in January of this year. The MSC is also expected to receive an update from the Government of Italy on the status of the casualty investigation. IMO is represented, as an observer, on the body overseeing the casualty investigation.
It is anticipated that the MSC will also prepare an action plan to ensure a prompt response to the Costa Concordia incident and consider any other concerns associated with passenger ship safety.
Adoption of SOLAS amendments
The MSC will be invited to consider, for adoption, draft amendments to:
• SOLAS regulation II 1/8-1, to introduce a mandatory requirement for new passenger ships for either onboard stability computers or shore-based support, for the purpose of providing operational information to the Master for safe return to port after a flooding casualty;
• SOLAS chapter II-2 relating to protection of vehicle, special category and ro–ro spaces, including revised requirements for fire extinguishing systems;
• SOLAS regulation III/20.11.2 regarding the testing of free-fall lifeboats, to require that the operational testing of free-fall lifeboat release systems shall be performed either by free-fall launch with only the operating crew on board or by a simulated launching;
• SOLAS regulation V/14 on ships’ manning, to require Administrations, for every ship, to establish appropriate minimum safe manning levels following a transparent procedure, taking into account the guidance adopted by IMO (Assembly resolution A.1047(27) on Principles of minimum safe manning); and issue an appropriate minimum safe manning document or equivalent as evidence of the minimum safe manning considered necessary;
• SOLAS chapter VI to add a new SOLAS regulation VI/5-2, to make mandatory the prohibition of blending of bulk liquid cargoes during the sea voyage and to prohibit production processes on board ships;
• SOLAS chapter VII to replace regulation 4 on documents, covering transport information relating to the carriage of dangerous goods in packaged form and the container/vehicle packing certificate; and
• SOLAS chapter XI-1 regulation XI-1/2 on enhanced surveys to make mandatory the International Code on the Enhanced Programme of Inspections during Surveys of Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers, 2011 (2011 ESP Code), adopted by resolution A.1049(27).
Adoption of Load Lines amendments
The MSC is expected to adopt draft amendments to regulation 47 of the International Convention on Load Lines (LL), 1966 and the 1988 LL Protocol, to shift the Winter Seasonal Zone off the southern tip of Africa further southward by 50 miles.
The amendments to the Convention will then also be submitted to the next session of the IMO Assembly for adoption, as required by the Convention.
LRIT status to be updated
The MSC will be updated on developments in relation to the establishment and testing of LRIT Data Centres (DCs) and the operation of the LRIT system since its last session.
STCW Convention: independent evaluations to be considered
The MSC is expected to consider the Secretary-General’s report on a number of countries whose independent evaluations have been completed since the previous MSC meeting and to confirm if those Parties continue to give full and complete effect to the provisions of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as amended.
In connection with other issues arising from the reports of IMO Sub-Committees and other bodies, the MSC will be invited to:
• Adopt revised performance standards for voyage data recorders (VDRs) to update the current performance standards (resolution A.861(20), as amended by resolution MSC.214(81)) and provide for VDRs to continuously maintain sequential records of preselected data items relating to the status and output of the ship’s equipment, and command and control of the ship in a fixed recording medium; a float-free recording medium; and a long-term recording medium.
• Adopt several new and amended ships’ routeing measures.
• Approve, for future adoption, new draft SOLAS requirements (new regulation III/17-1) to require ships to have plans and procedures to recover persons from the water, as well as related Guidelines for development of plans and procedures for recovery of persons from the water. Also, to approve a draft MSC resolution on Implementation of SOLAS regulation III/17-1 to ships other than those engaged in international voyages.
• Approve the draft revised Code on noise levels on board ships, which sets out mandatory noise level limits for machinery spaces, control rooms, workshops, accommodation and other spaces on board ships, updates and revises the previous version published in 1973 (resolution A.468(XII)). Also, to approve for future adoption a related draft new SOLAS regulation II-1/3 12 to require new ships to be constructed to reduce onboard noise and to protect personnel from noise, in accordance with the Code.
• Approve Unified Interpretations of the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, as amended (COLREG), relating to navigation-light arrangements (described in Annex I/9(a)(i) and 10(a)(i) of COLREG).
• Approve a draft MSC circular on Pilot transfer arrangements, which includes a revised graphic depiction of required boarding arrangements for pilots, reflecting amendments adopted to SOLAS regulation V/23 by MSC 88 in 2010 and Assembly resolution A.1045(27) on Pilot transfer arrangements.
• Adopt a draft MSC resolution on amendments to performance standards for speed and distance measuring equipment, to add a new paragraph referring to the need for two separate devices, if ships are required to carry speed logs measuring speed through the water and speed over the ground. Also, to approve a related draft MSC circular on the interpretation of SOLAS regulation V/184.108.40.206, to clarify the requirement for two separate devices.
• Adopt amendments to the International Code for Fire Safety Systems (FSS Code), relating to fixed gas fire-extinguishing systems; fixed pressure water-spraying and water-mist fire-extinguishing systems; and automatic sprinkler, fire detection and fire alarm systems.
• Approve draft MSC circulars on Revised Guidelines for the design and approval of fixed water-based fire-fighting systems for ro-ro spaces and special category spaces; Guidelines for the approval of helicopter facility foam fire-fighting appliances; and Revised Guidelines for the maintenance and inspection of fire-protection systems and appliances.
• Adopt draft amendment 36-12 to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code and supplements, including harmonization of the Code with the amendments to the UN Recommendations on the transport of dangerous goods, seventeenth revised edition.
• Adopt draft amendments to the Guidelines for the design and construction of offshore supply vessels, 2006 (resolution MSC.235(82)), concerning damage stability standards.
• Approve for future adoption draft amendments to SOLAS regulation II-2/10 on fire fighting to require a minimum of duplicate two-way portable radiotelephone apparatus for fire fighters’ communication to be carried; and draft amendments to regulation II-2/15 Instructions, on-board training and drills, to require an onboard means of recharging breathing apparatus cylinders used during drills, or a suitable number of spare cylinders.
• Approve a draft MSC circular on Basic Safety Guidance for yacht races or oceanic voyages by non-regulated crafts.
• Approve draft amendments to the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual for inclusion in the 2013 edition of the IAMSAR Manual. The draft amendments include revised paragraphs relating to common language (English serves as the default SAR operational language in all cross-boundary operations where there is no other common language) and references to 406 MHz Distress Beacons.
• Approve a draft MSC circular on Revised Guidelines on annual testing of 406 MHz satellite EPIRBs.