The IMO’s Committee on Maritime Safety (MSC) held its 91st session from Wednesday 16 through Friday 25 May 2012 under the Chairmanship of Mr Christian Breinholt (DENMARK) who, together with his Vice Chair (Captain Segar of SINGAPORE), were duty re-elected for a further year.

Following a welcome address to participants by the Secretary General, UK made a statement on the ban of Falkland Islands hydrocarbon related vessels visiting Argentina and its unfair effect on ships’ crews. Argentina responded that it has not violated its commitment and obeyed UNCLOS in addition to Port Regulations; this latter view was endorsed by Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Three Working Groups were formed:

(1) Goal-Based New Ship Construction Standards
(2) Passenger Ship Safety
(3) The scope of application of amendments to SOLAS and related codes and guidelines in an holistic manner

In addition, a draft group gave ‘Consideration and Adoption of Amendments to Mandatory Instruments’ whilst a ‘Capacity-Building Needs Analysis Group (ACAG)’ also deliberated. The report of the Formal Safety Assessment Experts Group, which met during the week preceding MSC91, was also considered.

So, a busy week lay in store and this was given further ‘grist to the mill’ by a number of Presentations and Events during the lunch-breaks and after Plenary every day apart from Friday. These included the IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, the International Maritime Prize (for which the Intermanager-sponsored ‘Shipping Company of the Year’ award was won by Shell UK), the International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards and an update on the COSTA CONCORDIA investigation. The last mentioned presentation will be summarised as the last item of this report.

Salient points from the meeting on items of most interest to Intermanager members are as follows:
• DECISION OF OTHER IMO BODIES. An MSC-MEPC Circular giving Interim guidelines for determining minimum propulsion power to maintain the manoeuvrability of ships in adverse conditions was approved for early dissemination. The Committee noted the success of the 2012 Conference on the Safety of Fishing Vessels leading to the Cape Town Agreement of 2012 relating to the Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 following which SLF 55 has been instructed to develop a procedure for calculating the number of fishing vessels of each Contracting State.

• PASSENGER SHIP SAFETY. Appreciation was expressed to the Government of Italy for their progress reports on the continuing investigation into COSTA CONCORDIA. Subsequent to the Report of the Working Group, the Committee agreed to establish mandatory measures pertaining to the muster policy for ships engaged on a voyage where passengers are scheduled to be on board for more than 24 hours. Further, the draft amendments to SOLAS provide enough flexibility for allowing late passengers to obtain proper safety instructions and also, ro-ro passenger ships are permitted sufficient lee-way to carry out musters immediately upon departure where necessary. It was agreed that ‘unnecessary disruptions and distractions to the bridge team’ is adequately covered under SOLAS regulation V/15.6 thus no further action is required. In addressing those conditions under which a Master may deviate from the approved voyage plan for reasons other than those of safety or environmental protection, it was agreed to include a pertinent new output in the long-term action plan and also to explore how such deviations interact with Company policies. A further new output in the long term work plan will stipulate that the nationalities of all persons on board should be recorded. The Committee will recommend to companies that at least one lifeboat should be filled with crew members equal in number to its certified number of occupants at least every six months.

• GOAL-BASED NEW SHIP CONSTRUCTION STANDARDS (GBS). The Committee took note of the progress made in the development of draft guidelines text for approval of alternatives and equivalents as provided for in various IMO instruments. Member States and international organisations were invited to submit comments on the elements for consideration in the development of interim guidelines for the ‘Safety Level Approach (SLA)’ whilst revised terms of reference for the GBS Correspondence Group were approved.

• MEASURES TO ENHANCE MARITIME SECURITY. Contracting Governments were urged to review their information in GISIS and update it as necessary pending a review and upgrade of the module’s accessibility and value as an information source. The IMO Guide to Maritime Security and the ISPS Code are currently available in English and French, soon to be joined by Spanish.

• PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AGAINST SHIPS. Piracy and armed robbery acts against ships this year (up to end August) have decreased by 42% to 247 in comparison to 424 for the same period in 2011. Of the 247, more than 40%, equating to 91 incidents, can be ascribed to Somali pirates (34 Arabian Sea, 57 East Africa). South-East Asia accounts for 48 as also does West Africa, whilst the remaining 60 incidents comprise 28 in the Indian Ocean (most attacks in ports and anchorages in East Africa, India and Bangladesh), 17 in the Malacca Straits, 12 in South America and 3 in the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the high number of Somali-based piracy attacks, their success rate has dropped significantly. Somali pirates attacked 172 ships in 2010 and hijacked 50 of them (29%) whilst in 2011, out of 286 attacks, 33 resulted in the ship being hijacked (11.5%). In 2012 (1 Jan – 31 Aug), out of 91 attacks launched by Somali pirates, 13 (14%) resulted in hijacking of the target ship, most of which were dhows. Concern was expressed at the dramatic increase in the number of attacks against shipping in the Gulf of Guinea and the increasing level of violence of these attacks. The ICS observer emphasized that, given the complex nature of West African piracy and armed robbery, there is an urgent need for broader multilateral action involving cooperation between littoral States and the engagement of IMO, industry, flag States and relevant military expertise to combat such crime. The most significant attacks are against ships carrying and transferring oil and hydrocarbons, generally those engaged in ship-to-ship operations, for the purpose of stealing the cargo, also attacks against ships and platforms for logistic needs, and armed robbery against ships for theft of money and property. Fortunately, unlike piracy off the coast of Somalia, the holding of crew members for ransom in West and Central Africa is rare.

Following implementation of a polling functionality in the GISIS Information Distribution Facility which allows security forces to more easily identify the current position of ships approaching the piracy High Risk Area using LRIT information, contracting Governments were urged to consider allowing security forces to transmit polling request messages to ships flying their flag through an opt-in arrangement; further information on this facility can be requested by emailing [email protected] or by reviewing Circular letter No. 3306. ISO informed the Committee that PAS 28007 setting out guidance for applying ISO 28000 to private Maritime Security Companies has been completed in a commendable five and a half months. Member States were encouraged to bring PAS to the attention of their national standards bodies, also PMSC’s, shipowners and other stakeholders in order to study and use it as appropriate.

• AMENDMENTS TO MANDATORY INSTRUMENTS. The Committee adopted amendments to the following (plus associated draft MSC Resolutions):
(1) The 1974 SOLAS Convention
(2) The FSS Code
(3) The IBC Code
(4) The Performance Standards for protective coatings for dedicated seawater ballast tanks in all types of ships and double-skin spaces of bulk carriers, also cargo oil tanks of crude oil tankers
(5) The 1988 Load Lines Protocol
(6) The 1978 SOLAS Protocol
(7) The 1988 SOLAS Protocol
(8) The 1966 Load Lines Convention (and approved a draft Assembly resolution)
(9) The International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships 1969 (and approved draft Assembly Resolutions)
(10) The draft MSC resolution on Application of SOLAS regulation to ships to which SOLAS does not apply
The Committee also adopted the Code on noise levels on board ships and approved a draft MSC Circular on Guidelines for recovery of persons from the water.
In consideration of the Report of the ‘holistic’ Working Group into SOLAS amendments and related codes and guidelines, the Committee:
(a) Agreed the terms of reference of the group to meet during FS21;
(b) Instructed the working group to meet during all five working days of FS21 and report directly to MSC 92;
(c) Approved relaxation of deadlines for submission to FSI 21 of documents to be considered by the WG

• CAPACITY-BUILDING FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW MEASURES. The Capacity-Building Needs Analysis Group (ACAG) submitted a report of its meeting. The report identified certain equipment and training needs that may be necessary, also technical assistance. The Committee noted the group’s views and its recommendation that the information submitted to the Committee should be continued as it will encourage thorough assessment and transparency.

• MAKING THE POLAR CODE MANDATORY. Following discussion, the Committee decided to structure the Polar Code along the lines proposed by Argentina and to instruct the DE Sub-Committee accordingly. This would lead to having a part in general provisions, a part on safety measures (containing mandatory and recommendatory provisions) and a part on pollution prevention measures. The Code could then be adopted under the relevant applicable IMO instruments and specific maritime safety and pollution prevention requirements could be amended independently.

• WORK PROGRAMME (NEW OUTPUTS ONLY). A proposal by DSC 17 to introduce mandatory carriage requirements for appropriate atmosphere testing instruments on board ships was approved for inclusion in their 2012-2013 biennial agenda and in the provisional agenda for DSC 18, as an unplanned output. A recommendation from the FSA study on the safe sea transport of dangerous goods relating to improved packaging and storage was similarly included in FP’s 2012-2013 biennial agendas. Meanwhile, recommendations emanating from the FSA study on crude oil tankers relating to training on hot work procedures was assigned to STW as coordinator, in association with FP. COMSAR was given an unplanned output in ‘Consideration of ECDIS matters’ with a target completion date of 2015. Guidance for Model course development, updating and validation processes will be assigned to STW for completion in their next 2 sessions. STW will similarly assess the STCW Code’s colour vision requirements as an unplanned output at STW 44 and also, will review STCW passenger ship specific safety training in two sessions. The NAV sub-committee will develop performance standards as an unplanned output for shipborne ‘BeiDou’ receiver equipment given that ‘BeiDou’ is a future component of the World-Wide Radionavigation system (WWRNS).

• REVIEW AND REFORM INITIATIVE. This was a lengthy, extensive, somewhat polarised and fractious, debate. The Committee discussed the outcome of the Council’s consideration of the Secretary-General’s review and reform initiative. The Council had endorsed, in principle, a restructuring of the sub-committeees reducing their number from 9 to 7 (with a potential saving of 4 meeting-weeks per biennium); establishing a new sub-committee to deal exclusively with environment-related matters and as a consequence, establishing one sub-committee to consider cargo matters (wet and dry); amalgamating NAV and COMSAR into one sub-committee; amalgamating/reducing FP, DE and SLF into two sub-committees; and finally, renaming FSI to better reflect its current work. Council had invited MSC and MEPC to give early consideration to the implications and practicability of the relevant proposals under their purview, including appropriate new names, reporting to C110 accordingly. Summarising the somewhat heated discussion, the Chairman said that:
o Many delegations recognise the need for IMO to make savings but are concerned.
o Caution is needed and a full analysis carried out before changes are made.
o A majority expressed support in principle for the number of proposed sub-committees and the mergers.
o The work-load on the sub-committees needs to be such that the quality [of output] continues.
o Names are a worry for some and sub-committees must be properly re-named to ensure clarity.
o Some delegations expressed the view that SAR should remain within any COMSAR/NAV combination.
o The frequency of sub-committee meetings might be considered in more detail rather than cutting their number.
o Flexibility in the number of days and meetings would be helpful.
o Changes should deliver efficiencies and cost-benefits
o Flexibility of working groups and drafting groups could also assist.
o The proposed Cargoes sub-committee and the work of the ESPH group needs further consideration.
o E-navigation might be considered intersessionally.
o The terms of reference of the proposed sub-committee on the environment needs careful consideration.
o Any decisions made should be by consensus after full consultation.
The delegation of the Cook Islands, supported by others, expressed concern at the proposed reduction in the number of sub-committees and suggested that alternatively, savings could be made by altering the frequency of the meetings. The Secretariat was then requested to prepare a detailed proposal containing suggested names, terms of reference, agendas and biennial agendas, cost-benefit analyses and meeting dates for each proposed body, to be considered at MEPC 65 and MSC 92. The Committee decided to establish a working group at MSC 92 to further consider the proposed changes to working practices affecting the Committees’ Guidelines and proposed priority-setting mechanism for the Organisation and invited Member States to submit comments and inputs to the next session.

• LRIT-RELATED MATTERS. The need for an urgent review of the LRIT system was expressed at COMSAR 16, in particular that of reducing the financial burden of operating DC’s in compliance with SOLAS regulation V/19-1. In response, IMSO informed the Committee that the IMSO Advisory Committee had given preliminary consideration to the audit fee and that :
(1) Subject to final consideration at the forthcoming IMSO Assembly, the audit fee amount will be reduced by 15% to approximately £8.500 in 2013; and
(2) A future restructuring of the IMSO Directorate could lead to a potential reduction in the audit fees in the order of 40% from 2015/16 and beyond.
All who spoke expressed appreciation of this compromise solution and were of the view that it would not be necessary to explore alternative options for the audit and review of the LRIT system.
• TECHNICAL CO-OPERATION ACTIVITIES RELATING TO MARITIME SAFETY AND SECURITY. Of most note to some Intermanager members is that of the ‘IMO MODEL COURSE PROGRAMME’, in particular, the review and update of model courses, viz:
1.27 Operational use of ECDIS
3.19 Ship Security Officer and production of three new model courses, namely
3.26 Security training for seafarers with designated security duties
3.27 security awareness training for all seafarers, and
6.10 Train the Simulator Trainer and Assessor
66 model courses have been published in English of which 32 are translated into French and 35 in Spanish, in addition to the 3 model course which Peru has undertaken to translate into Spanish.

• RADIO COMMUNICATIONS AND SEARCH AND RESCUE. A short item. Of note, the Committee reminded Member States with a low response rate of the importance of a reliable test call response of their search and rescue point of contact (SPOC) and approved the draft revised MSC Circular guide on cold water survival. The Committee also approved the draft COMSAR circulars on ‘Guidance for entering and updating information on Search and Rescue into GISIS’ and on how to access information into operational use, also ‘Guidance on Smartphone and Other Computer Device SAR Applications’. Finally, the draft MSC ‘resolution on’ Recommendations for the protection of the AIS VHF data link was also approved.

• TRAINING AND WATCHKEEPING. There was little discussion of substance in this item, however the Committee approved 4 additional competent persons as nominated by their Governments and requested the Secretary-General to issue an inclusive updated circular as MSC/Circ.797/REV23.

• SAFETY OF NAVIGATION. The Committee adopted amendments to the existing traffic separation schemes, including associated routeing measures, as follows:
(1) Off Texel;
(2) In the approaches to Hook of Holland and at North Hinder;
(3) Off Rodsher Island;
(4) Off Ushant, including article 3 of SN/Circ.232;
(5) In the Santa Barbara Channel;
(6) Off San Francisco, and
(7) In the Approaches to Los Angeles – Long Beach.
The Committee noted progress in the development of an e-navigation strategy implementation plan and the re-establishment of a correspondence group to progress the work intersessionally.

• ECDIS. The observer from ICS ‘set the cat amongst the pigeons’ when he noted that the information on the IMO website showed no available information for 19 out of 29 IHO known ECDIS manufacturers. It therefore begged the question as to how, when urged by the IMO Secretariat, ‘shipowners, managers and ships can use the information provided to ensure that their ECDIS systems are updated to meet the latest applicable standards’? Equally disturbing, an IHO report of a subsequent meeting featuring ‘new fit’ ECDIS reported that whilst 80% of systems show all the required underwater obstructions, they do not all necessarily show them in the same way. 20% do not show some of the underwater obstructions in the standard display mode. Not surprisingly, this intervention caused great concern in Plenary notwithstanding the IHO observer’s assurance that he was unaware of any ECDIS in use at sea which cannot meet the carriage requirement, although a limited number may require a software upgrade. However, he stated that there were no safety implications involved.
The Committee, acting on the advice of CYPRUS, instructed the Secretariat to continue, on a priority basis, to monitor developments and expedite efforts in coordination with IHO, CIRM and OEM’s to address this issue and keep the Committee informed on a regular basis. The UK pointed out that their unplanned output bid was limited in scope and contrary to what is hoped, might not assist unduly in the broad picture. IHO stated that any ECDIS installation after 2007 will definitely meet the requirement, whereas those before 2007 may require a software upgrade to operate optimally. He also volunteered to conduct a further workshop to follow that of October 2012 which in his view, appeared so successful …

• FLAG STATE IMPLEMENTATION. Following a discussion regarding the modular set of standards of harmonised regulations and model national legislation for ships not covered by the 1974 SOLAS Convention (Global Reg), together with a model course (both developed in 2010 by IMO consultants), the Chairman advised FRANCE to submit a paper to FSI on ‘The Development of a detailed Strategy for an Instrument for non-Convention Passenger Ships’.

• DANGEROUS GOODS, SOLID CARGOES AND CONTAINERS. The Committee noted that DSC had decided not to finalise a draft schedule for iron ore fines at its 17th Session in order to await the outcome of related research prior to finalising it and appropriate test methods at DSC 18. In addition, a correspondence group has been established to finalise the draft schedule. The Committee also approved draft amendments to SOLAS Chapter III related to enclosed space entry and rescue drills with a view to adoption at MSC 92. Note was taken that DSC had requested the Secretariat to forward its views to the Group of Experts for the revision of the IMO/ILO/UNECE Guidelines for the Packing Cargo Transport Units.

• CONCERNS REGARDING NON-COMPLIANCE WITH RESOLUTIONS A.949(23) and a.987(24). The Committee considered document MSC 91/21 by ICS, BIMCO, INTERCARGO, IPTA and INTERTANKO expressing concern regarding the lack of adherence to the Casualty Investigation Code and the IMO Guidelines on places of refuge, also the ILO/IMO Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the light of the M/T STOLT VALOR incident. The co-sponsors expressed concern that some of the information in the ROPME submission to MEPC 64 differed significantly from their understanding of events but ROPME/MEMAC provided a detailed account of the incident which essentially rebutted that of the five Industry Associations. The Chairman, in summary, stressed the need for all concerned to take account of the relevant resolutions when determining and responding to requests for places of refuge for ships in need of assistance, including the fair treatment of seafarers involved in the casualty. The Committee endorsed the Chairman’s request to the Flag State for its submission to IMO of the report on the casualty investigation as soon as practicable (under Resolution A.949(23)).

o Three investigations (administrative, technical and criminal) are still in progress.
o The first hearing of the criminal trial took place on 15 October 2012.
o There has been no change in the ship’s position, 2042.5m3 of fuel and luboil from the 24 tanks has been removed, seabed debris clearance is ongoing, Titan Salvage and Micoperi companies are carrying out the operations.
o There will be 3 phases of wreck removal operation, those of Securing, Uprighting and Transfer/Towage.
o The Marine Safety Investigation fields of actions are:
(1) Crew Manning
(2) The Voyage
(3) Stability
(4) Black Out
(5) General emergency management
(6) Safety equipment
(7) Ship Device/capability to respond to emergency
o Hull damage length of gash is about 53 metres, from frame 53 to 125 of variable width, up to 7.3 metres

o The Navigation Phase before Impact is seen as crucial to the technical investigation. A particular focus is on the behaviour of the Master and his decision to make a hazardous passage close to the shoreline.

o Computer simulation has been used for a reconstruction of manoeuvring before the event and the ship’s behaviour after the event utilising witness statements and survey reports.

o Critical points identified as contributing factors to the accident are those of shifting from a perpendicular to a parallel course extremely close to the coast and ‘intervening softly’ in the turn; using the inner coastline southward instead of an external landmark and; a high speed of 16 knots in night conditions close to the shoreline.

o Further navigational points were the use of inappropriate cartography, Master’s distraction due to extraneous persons on the Bridge and also conducting a phone call unrelated to the navigation operation.

o The Master issued compass courses rather than conning orders specifying the rudder angle whilst the Bridge Team, although more than suitable in terms of numbers, would appear not to have been paying sufficient attention.

o The general Emergency Alarm was not activated immediately after the impact and there was delay in the management of the emergency. Direct orders from the Bridge to crewmembers with safety tasks were lacking and initiatives were taken by individuals. The differing backgrounds and training of crew members did not help as it led to incomplete coordination.

o SOLAS regulation V/14.1 on Manning, IMO Resolution A.890(21) (as amended by A.955(23)) on the Principles of Safe Manning, SOLAS Regulations 111/8 and 37 also Regulation 111/37 on Muster List postings/duties and tasks assigned will set the yard-stick for compliance.

o With regard to Stability, two contiguous compartments, WTC5 and 6 flooded quickly (WTC5 – completely in a few minutes) and this is a LIMIT CONDITION in terms of buoyancy, trim and list indicating an abandon-ship situation to allow safe and orderly evacuation.

o The results from ‘Flooding Simulation’ show the progression and magnitude of the heel angle from the ship heeling to starboard until the final grounding. There was no onboard device able to detect the quantity and position of water flooding the ship noting that under the rules applying to the COSTA CONCORDIA one is not required.

o There was simultaneous flooding of contiguous compartment WTCs 4 -7 and 8 whilst in WTC 3, the water entered from Deck Ø through the stairway enclosures connecting it to Deck C.

o There was an immediate loss of propulsion and general services located in WTC’s 5 and 6, also a consequent unavailability of the various high capacity sea-water service pumps fed by the main switchboard only, fitted with a direct suction in the compartment in which they were located.

o WT Doors of the involved WTCs were closed at the time of the collision.

o There was a black-out of the main electrical network, and there appears to be a degree of uncertainty as to the automatic starting of the Emergency Diesel Generator, also the functioning of its associated switchboard.

o The unavailability of a wireless telephone system was a factor impairing the exchange of communications between key personnel during the emergency.

o Preliminary observations indicate that:
(1) The progressive flooding of 5 WTCs where most of the ship’s vital equipment was located makes the COSTA CONCORDIA casualty a unique event.
(2) Some suitable measure have already been instituted for new-build or existing ships, viz:
• A requirement for segregation and redundancy of vital equipment for propulsion, steering and navigation
• Onboard stability computer
• Flooding detection system
• Use of ECDIS
(3) For the future, provision of a double skin for protecting those WTCs containing equipment vital to propulsion and electricity generation.
(4) More partitioning and sub-partitioning of each WTC will limit the effect of free surface.
(5) Provision of a discontinuity between compartments containing the ship’s essential systems should preserve their functional integrity.
(6) More detailed criteria for the distribution of bilge pumps along the length of the ship and perhaps one high-capacity pump to drain an isolated compartment.
(7) Relocation of the main voltage propulsion transformers to a higher position
(8) Relocation of the main switchboard compartment above the bulkhead deck
(9) Distribution of electrical power through a main switchboard for each generator room.
(10) Interface between flooding detection and monitoring system, on board stability computer and ballast/bilge systems
(11) Adequate emergency generator capacity to support all essential services.

o The Emergency Diesel Generator must be available for all essential systems in cases of emergency.

o There must be a suitable energy production and distribution system.

o It should be possible to supply power to the bow thrusters in the event of loss of propulsion or main steering system failure.

o A wireless telephone system is important.

o With regard to the Navigation Phases:
(1) Good teamwork is essential to Bridge management
(2) The Principles of Safe Manning might need to be updated and applied compulsorily in order to better suit large passenger ships
(3) The Muster List should show certification or documentary evidence necessary for crew members with safety tasks
(4) Quality of Training must be certified by competent authorities worldwide
(5) Inclinometer measurements should be included in the VDR
(6) There is a need for an evacuation analysis to be carried out at an early stage of each build.
Finally, a simulation of emergency conditions was carried out on 16-17 November on the sister ship, COSTA FAVOLOSA, in order to check the sequence of the emergency diesel generator failure.

Captain Paddy McKnight


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