IMO Maritime Safety Committee meets

In the words of International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General William O’Neil, the 73rd meeting of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee was “without parallel” in the IMO’s history.

The eight-day meeting produced significant changes on a number of maritime safety issues, including the publication of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers’ (STCW) White List, black box carriage requirements, automatic identification system (AIS) carriage requirements, and SOLAS requirements. The committee also addressed safety issues concerning tankers and passenger vessels.

The STCW White List comprises 71 countries deemed by the IMO to be giving “full and complete effect” to the revised STCW Convention (STCW 95) published by the IMO. “The revised STCW Convention and the ISM Code, which takes full effect in 2002, are both aimed squarely at addressing human issues in shipping,” O’Neil said. “Although technical matters will retain their importance, improving the standards of seafarers is a vital part of the safety equation. The White List shows that the human element is taking its proper place in the industry’s priorities.”

The 1995 amendments to STCW, which entered into force on Feb. 1, 1997, revised and updated the original 1978 Convention, setting out clearly defined minimum competency requirements for all seafarers and taking into account developments in technology since the 1978 Convention was adopted. A position on the White List entitles “other parties to accept, in principle, that certificates issued by or on behalf of the parties on the list are in compliance with the Convention.”

The IMO stressed that, if a country is not listed, it does not invalidate certificates or endorsements issued by that party. According to the IMO, “Nothing in the STCW Convention prevents the employment of any seafarer who holds a valid certificate or endorsement issued by a Party to the Convention. Nevertheless, the White List will become one of several criteria, including the inspection of facilities and procedures, that can be applied in the selection of properly trained and qualified seafarers.” If seafarers from a non-listed country are accepted, “they will be required by 1 February 2002 to have an endorsement, issued by the flag state, to show that their certificate is recognized by the flag state. By 1 February 2002, masters and officers should hold STCW 95 certificates or endorsements issued by the flag state.”

The IMO does expect that ships flying flags of countries that are not on the White List will be increasingly targeted by Port State Control inspectors. Countries that were not included on the initial White List will be able to continue with the assessment process and be included on a future list once they have met the STCW standards.

The IMO also adopted regulations that will require ships to carry voyage data recorders (VDR), or black boxes.

The VDR for vessels will have the same function as black boxes on aircraft Ã’ they will assist with accident investigations. Investigators will be able to review a record of procedures and instructions in the moments before an incident and help identify its cause.

The IMO published VDR performance standards in 1997 and gave details on data to be recorded and VDR specifications. The VDR should be capable of continuously maintaining sequential records of preselected data items relating to status and output of the ship’s equipment and command and control of the ship. The VDR should be installed in a protective capsule that is brightly colored and fitted with an appropriate device to aid location. It should be entirely automatic in normal operation. Under the new regulation, all VDR must undergo an annual performance test.

The following ships will be required to carry a VDR, under regulation 20 of the revised SOLAS Chapter V:

  • passenger ships constructed on or after July 1, 2002;
  • ro/ro passenger ships constructed before July 1, 2002 not later than the first survey on or after July 1, 2002;
  • passenger ships other than ro/ro passenger ships constructed before July 1, 2002 not later than Jan. 1, 2004; and
  • ships, other than passenger ships, of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards, constructed on or after July 1, 2002.

     

    Administrations may exempt ships, other than ro/ro passenger ships, constructed before July 1, 2002, from being fitted with a VDR where it can be demonstrated that interfacing a VDR with the existing equipment on the ship is unreasonable and impracticable.

    The IMO also adopted a resolution that called for a feasibility study to assess the need for VDR on existing cargo ships. The study, to be conducted by the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation, will take into account such factors as practicability; technical problems relating to the retrofitting of VDR; the adequacy of existing performance standards, including the possible development of simplified standards; experience in the use of VDR on ships already fitted with them, including data that could not have been obtained without VDR; and relevant financial implications, including a cost-benefit analysis. The goal is to finalize the study by January 2004. The IMO resolution encouraged shipowners to install VDR on existing cargo ships voluntarily, so that wide experience of their use may be gained.

    A requirement to carry AIS transponders was added to Regulation 19 of the new SOLAS Chapter V, carriage requirements for shipborne navigational systems and equipment.

    The regulation requires AIS to be fitted aboard all ships of 300 gross tons and upwards engaged in international voyages, cargo ships of 500 gross tonnage and upwards not engaged on international voyages and passenger ships irrespective of size built on or after July 1, 2002. It also applies to ships engaged on international voyages constructed before July 1, 2002, according to the following timetable:

     

  • passenger ships, not later than July 1, 2003;
  • tankers, not later than the first survey for safety equipment on or after July 1, 2003;
  • ships, other than passenger ships and tankers, of 50,000 gross tonnage and upwards, not later than July 1, 2004;
  • ships, other than passenger ships and tankers, of 10,000 gross tonnage and upwards but less than 50,000 gross tonnage, not later than July 1, 2005;
  • ships, other than passenger ships and tankers, of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards but less than 10,000 gross tonnage, not later than July 1, 2006; and
  • ships, other than passenger ships and tankers, of 300 gross tonnage and upwards but less than 3,000 gross tonnage, not later than July 1, 2007.

     

    Ships not engaged on international voyages constructed before July 1, 2002, will have to fit AIS not later than July 1, 2008.

    Performance standards for AIS were adopted in 1998. The new regulations require that AIS shall:

     

  • provide information including the ship’s identity, type, position, course, speed, navigational status and other safety-related information – automatically to appropriately equipped shore stations, other ships and aircraft;
  • receive automatically such information from similarly fitted ships;
  • monitor and track ships; and
  • exchange data with shore-based facilities.

     

    A flag state may exempt ships from carrying AIS when ships will be taken permanently out of service within two years after the implementation date.

    For more information about the IMO and the 73rd meeting of the MSC, visit its web site at www.imo.org.