The IMO’s sub-committee on Ship Design and Equipment (DE) held its 56th session on 13 through 17 February 2012. Mrs Annelise Jost of Germany chaired the meeting very ably and was re-elected for the coming year. Her Vice Chairman, Dr Susumu Ota of Japan, was similarly re-elected. A number of Working Groups (WG’s) were formed and their main recommendations, as subsequently endorsed in Plenary, are as follows:
• Revision of the Revised Guidelines for Sewage Treatment Plants, also the standard specification for shipboard incinerators. The draft MEPC Resolution on 2012 Guidelines on the Implementation of Effluent Standards and Performance Test for STP’s were agreed in principle and should be applied from 1 January 2016. The previous possibility of ‘dilution compensation’ was re-included so that it can be evaluated at MEPC 64. It was also agreed that the capacity limit for shipboard incinerators should be increased from 1,500 kw to 4,000 kw and a recommendation made to MEPC 64 that this ‘extended’ range can be type approved under the existing Standard Specification for Shipboard Incinerators, whilst extending the target completion year to 2013.
• Protection Against Noise on board ships. A protracted and somewhat acrimonious discussion took place on Chapter 6 of this WG’s report, namely ‘Acoustic Insulation Between Accommodation Spaces’. The group had recommended that the ‘Sound Insulation Index’ figures and ‘Erection of Materials’ instructions be made mandatory. BAHAMAS argued that the Code should be divided into two sections, one recommendatory and the other mandatory, whilst FRANCE felt the current structure (mandatory only) to be suitable. Member governments then took sides. A particularly noteworthy comment by KOREA observed a discrepancy in the difference between laboratory and on board noise levels of 5db. The USA believed that, given the absence of installation instructions, the ‘Measurement’ guidance/instructions suggested by the WG would be difficult to implement. In forwarding the DE’s report, the Chairman stated that all proposals would be included, particularly the statements made by the BAHAMAS, FRANCE and the USA, seeking MSC’s guidance on how best to proceed.
• Development of Performance Standards for Recovery Systems for all Types of Ships. A much less contentious item. Most noteworthy among the 13 WG proposals endorsed by the committee included that of providing flexibility for lifeboat servicing as part of the development of a mandatory instrument; agreement to a road map for the development of a new framework of requirements for life-saving appliances; issuance of an invitation to governments for concrete proposals on the development of specific safety objectives and functional requirements for SOLAS chapter 11-1; a refusal to approve the IACS unified interpretation on the matter of infant-lifejackets in its current form and finally, an agreement to establish a correspondence group.
• Development of a Mandatory Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters. There were approximately 100 participants in this WG, thus demonstrating its importance. Regarding Environmental issues, the group discussed at length to what extent the future Code should contain requirements on environmental protection in addition to that achieved by enhancement of safety. A majority felt that the Code should address both accidental and operational sources of pollution. However, in order to help resolve the divergence of views as to whether environmental protection provisions should be elaborated as part of the Code, two options were suggested. The first would continue to develop the environmental provisions in the Code within the CG in addition to holding a topic-related intersessional meeting. The second option would immediately divert some of the environmental matters to MEPC and its subordinate sub-committees. A great many opinions were expressed following which the Chairman ruled that an intersessional meeting was not sufficiently supported and therefore would not take place. In addition, she felt that DE should consider those matters pertinent to environmental protection which are not discussed in other bodies and that the preparatory work should be carried out by the re-established CG. Thus Chapter 15 (‘Environmental Protection’) is to be held in abeyance and not forwarded to MEPC ‘until we understand it ourselves’ following further discussion at DE 57. Chapters 1 through 14 and Annex 3 of the draft Polar Code on the other hand, were approved for forwarding to MEPC.
• Regulation on Plans and Procedures for Recovery of Persons from the Water. Following a debate on whether to place the new Regulation in Chapter III or Chapter V of SOLAS, the committee opted for the former and agreed to forward a draft resolution to MSC concerning the implementation of SOLAS regulation III/17-1 to ships other than those engaged on international voyages. IACS stated that, as the draft amendment will enter into force for existing ships in July 2014, if it has been inserted into ISM Documentation on board any existing ship, ISM audits taking place prior to that date should not penalise the ship.
• Other Items of Interest discussed in Plenary.
(1) The sub-committee invited parties interested in the thermal performance of immersion suits to prepare terms of reference for a correspondence group.
(2) It was agreed that there is an urgent need to further consider the application of existing IMO Instruments to Offshore Windfarm Construction Support Vessels and Service Craft and to clarify the application of relevant requirements concerning industrial personnel transported by sea.
(3) Concerns were expressed at the IACS UI (SC 248) on the greatest launching height for a free-fall lifeboat following which Member States/International Organisations were invited to submit comment and proposals to DE57.
(4) The Sub-Committee invited interested parties to prepare terms of reference for a correspondance group regarding the revision of testing requirement for lifejacket RJDs including a possible amendment to the LSA Code.
Captain Paddy McKnight