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imageDenmark’s Maritime Authority has issued a summary of the ups and downs of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee this past week. As usual, lifeboats were put on the back-burner.

Ship reporting system for the Sound

The Committee approved the proposal submitted by Denmark and Sweden on a ship reporting system, SOUNDREP, for the Sound. The approval means that the current voluntary reporting system is made mandatory from 1 September 2011. In connection with the reporting system, the Danish and Swedish authorities cooperate on a vessel traffic service that, in addition to vessel traffic monitoring, may provide relevant information to ships navigating the Sound.

In order to reduce the ship-board administration, the reports required from ships are, to a great extent, based on information from the ships’ automatic identification systems (AIS).

Piracy – Security

As regards the piracy issue, the MSC decided to issue the industry’s new guidelines for company security officers. The purpose of the guidelines is to assist company security officers in developing procedures that may prepare the crew in case the ship is captured off the coast of Somalia or in the West Indian Ocean.

Furthermore, the MSC adopted guidelines for preventing stowaways and on the distribution of responsibilities when solving stowaway cases. The intention was that these guidelines should apply from 1 October 2011 since the FAL Sub-Committee should adopt similar guidelines.

Other issues that deserve to be mentioned were discussions on piracy as well as the relationship between the ship security alarm and Best Management Practices, the so-called BMP recommendations.

Finally, a correspondence group was established to finalize a draft manual until the next session, the purpose of which is to consolidate existing IMO security-related material into easily understood guidelines to SOLAS, chapter XI-2, and the ISPS Code. The intention was that the manual should assist the authorities when implementing, observing and enforcing the security regulations.

New construction standard for ships (Goal-Based construction Standard – GBS)

Goal-Based construction Standards were adopted at the last session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 87) and will enter into force for new bulk carriers and tankers on 1 July 2016. Thus, there was no specific need to establish a working group at this session. However, a number of countries, including Denmark, wanted to further the implementation of Goal-Based Standards for ships other than bulk carriers and tankers. This enjoyed great support at the meeting, and it was decided that the comprehensive material previously submitted by the member States should be discussed at the next MSC session.

LRIT (Long-Range Identification and Tracking of ships)

At the meeting, a number of administrative issues related to the use of LRIT were discussed. Several member States and the so-called data centres (DCs) had experienced a number of different sources of error, meaning that the ships did not transmit the signals required. Consequently, the Committee approved guidelines for use when testing the LRIT system and decided to discuss the experience gained with the implementation again at the next session.

Release mechanism and hooks for lifeboats

For the session, draft regulations on release mechanisms and hooks for lifeboats had been made. The background was the fact that there had been some serious accidents with inadvertent release of the hook before the lifeboat had been lowered into the water. However, the industry and several member States criticized the test standards to be applied in order to decide whether existing hooks and release mechanisms could be replaced as a consequence of the new regulations. Therefore, it was decided that the DE Sub-Committee as well as a separate working group should examine the test standards in consideration of the conditions discussed at the meeting.

Against this background, the Committee expected that the new regulations could be adopted at the next MSC session (MSC 89).

Guidelines on the use of watertight doors

At the latest session of the DE Sub-Committee (Design and Equipment), draft guidelines were made on the establishing of equipment-related and operational conditions for permitting watertight doors to be kept open or passed through in passenger ships during voyages.

The guidelines were approved by the Maritime Safety Committee and will be issued as an MSC Circular.

The new guidelines that apply to both new and existing ships are primarily aimed at maritime administrations. They describe what elements to be documented prior to the issuance of such a permit and are based on a thorough assessment of what risks are connected with individual watertight doors being left open during voyages and what measures must be in place before issuing such a permit.

The human factor

At the meeting, a working group related to occupational health and the human factor (human element) was established. The purpose was to draw up guidelines on when and how to incorporate the human factor in the Organization’s work to a higher degree and, especially, in connection with proposals for new work programme items.

Furthermore, a “just culture” concept was presented in the working group, meaning that the safety culture should work and be implemented all over the company organisation in order to have the greatest possible impact. The concept gave rise to the Committee requesting member States to submit specific proposals on how to implement the “just culture” concept.

Other issues – new regulations

Furthermore, the Committee adopted a new code on fire test procedures (the 2010 FTP Code), which would enter into force on 1 July 2012. In this connection, it was considered necessary to introduce new requirements in the Fire Safety Systems Code (the FSS Code) for fixed fire-detection and alarm systems.

In addition to updates to various certificates, a number of amendments to chapter V of the SOLAS Convention on safety of navigation were adopted. The amendments were primarily aimed at safety during the transfer of pilots at sea.

Furthermore, the Committee approved revised guidelines for use when determining the safe manning on board. At the meeting, several countries aired the view that safe manning documents should be made on the basis of mandatory criteria, but the Committee concluded that the new guidelines were sufficient.

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