The IMO’s Sub-Committee on Fire Protection (FP) held its 56th session from Monday 7 through Friday 11 January 2013 under the Chairmanship of Mr Juan Carlos Cubisino (ARGENTINA); the Vice Chairman, Mr Claudio Abbate (ITALY) was also present. Both were re-elected for 2013. In his welcoming address, the Secretary-General spoke of his ambition to introduce an IMO mechanism for collecting [statistics on] safety related casualties. He hoped to halve the numbers of casualties of which there are currently over 1,000 per annum, to less than 500 by 2015. Also notable in his speech was a reference to Security and Piracy in which he expressed a desire to reduce the number of hostages and facilitate the release of those held in Somalia, currently 159 people and 12 ships. Three working groups were formed:

WG1 Measures to prevent explosions on oil and chemical tankers transporting low flash-point cargoes, chaired by Ms B Baldwin (UNITED STATES)
WG2 Review of fire protection requirements for on-deck cargo areas, chaired by Mr P Securius (GERMANY)
WG3 Development of requirements for ships carrying hydrogen and compressed natural gas vehicles, chaired by Dr S Ota (JAPAN)

A Drafting Group was formed to progress the development of requirements for the fire resistance of ventilation ducts, chaired by Mr L Fisher (UNITED STATES). In addition a number of experts convened under the chairmanship of Mrs A Norderad-Poulsen (DENMARK) to discuss the ‘means of escape from machinery spaces’.

Salient points from the meeting on items of particular interest to Intermanager members are as follows:

• MEASURES TO PREVENT EXPLOSIONS ON OIL AND CHEMICAL TANKERS TRANSPORTING LOW FLASH-POINT CARGOES. The WG’s recommendation that the ‘Clarification of inert gas system requirement under the Convention’ (MSC/Circ.485) and the ‘Revised Guidelines for inert gas systems (MSC/Circ.353), as amended by MSC/Circ.387, need to be reviewed to include nitrogen systems, was endorsed for consideration at MSC 92. Draft amendments to SOLAS regulations were approved for submission to MSC 92 as also were those to Chapter 15 of the FSS Code. With regard to an overlap between two standards relating to flame arresters attested by FRANCE, one IMO-driven and one by ISO, it was pointed out that the relevant ISO standard I5364 is already under review, with a view to merging both together. In the interim, ISO/TC8 will report any developments back to FP57. Draft amendments to the IBC Code (BLG 17/3), prepared by ESPH18 will be communicated to BLG 17. Finally, the sub-committee noted the casualty involving the LPG tanker MAHARSHI KRISHNATREYA leading to the loss of five seafarers’ lives (considered to be nitrogen asphyxiation) and endorsed the WG’s recommendation that the accident report should be published as soon as possible so that lessons can be learned. Meanwhile, the importance of complying with IMO Circular 1401 was stressed to Flag States.

• DEVELOPMENT OF REQUIREMENTS FOR THE FIRE RESISTANCE OF VENTILATION DUCTS. The Drafting Group agreed with the Sub-Committee that, given the substantial nature of some of the proposed additions and changes to the ventilation systems of regulation 11-2/9.7, the new draft regulation should apply to new ships only and this will be included in the MSC resolution adopting the regulation.

• REVIEW OF FIRE PROTECTION REQUIREMENTS FOR ON DECK CARGO AREAS. The sub-committee agreed the WG’s recommendation concerning carriage of a water mist lance. Fundamentally , at least one lance will be required for all new ships designed to carry containers on or above the weather deck, and furthermore requires mobile water monitors for new ships designed to carry five or more tiers of containers on or above the weather deck. Guidelines for the design, performance, testing and approval of such monitors will be submitted to MSC 92 for approval.

• REVIEW OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS ON EVACUATION ANALYSIS FOR NEW AND EXISTING PASSENGER SHIPS. In consideration of Germany’s Information Paper describing seven examples of problematic layouts being [nevertheless] compliant with the guidelines, also scenarios of evacuation from passenger ships featured in the EU SAFEGUARD project, it was decided to extend the target completion date to the next session of FP so as to give delegations more time to study the latest information. This could also take into account any instructions forwarded by MSC 92 with regard to the COSTA CONCORDIA accident.

• MEANS OF ESCAPE FROM MACHINERY SPACES. An amendment to SOLAS regulations drafted by the Group of Experts was agreed for submission to MSC 92 for approval and subsequent adoption. In essence, this proposes that:
(i) Steel ladders in machinery spaces should have a steel shield underside.
(ii) Two means of escape from the main workshop within a machinery space and similarly a machinery control room, should be provided.
The amendment applies to new passenger and cargo ships only.

• DEVELOPMENT OF REQUIREMENTS FOR SHIPS CARRYING HYDROGEN AND COMPRESSED NATURAL GAS VEHICLES. Draft WG text regarding relevant parts of the IGC code was agreed and will be forwarded to BLG 17 for incorporation.

• CONSIDERATION OF IACS UNIFIED INTERPRETATIONS (UI’s). The following UI’s were discussed in Plenary:
(1) Suction and discharge piping for emergency fire pumps
(2) Emergency exit hatches to open deck
(3) Fixed fire-extinguishing systems (FSS Code)
(4) Gas measurement and detection with portable instruments
(5) Location of the fire main isolation valves in tankers
(6) Fixed hydrocarbon gas detection systems
(7) Fire resistance requirements for fibre reinforced plastic gratings
(8) Application of SOLAS regulation 11-2/ [oil tanker insulation exposure]
(9) Protection of control stations on cargo ships
(10) Protection of load bearing structures on high-speed craft
(11) Clarification relating to MSC/Circ.1165 [on the definition of “bilge areas”]
(12) Application of the IMDG Code and SOLAS chapter 11-2 requirement to spaces carrying vehicles with fuel in their tanks
(13) Fire protection arrangements in cargo spaces
(14) Fire protection requirements for waste stowage spaces (resolution MEPC.76(40)
(15) Fire test procedures for vertically supported textiles and films
(16) Fire extinguishing arrangements in cargo spaces (IMSBC Code)
(17) Draft MSC circular on agreed interpretations

• REVIEW OF THE DRAFT POLAR CODE. FP56 was requested to consider chapter 7 (Fire safety/protection) of the draft Code which is based on the existing Guidelines for ships operating in polar waters (resolution A.1024(26)). DE will be requested to provide the latest draft of the Polar Code and also to develop an enhanced set of ship operation scenarios, including seasonal data, operating temperature range etc. These will be given to an interesssional Correspondence Group tasked with developing a Mandatory Code for ships operating in Polar Waters which will be co-ordinated by Canada, submitting a written report to FP 57.

• REVIEW OF GENERAL CARGO SHIP SAFETY. MSC 90 instructed FP to consider developing a risk control option (RCO) proposing measures to prevent fire and explosion accidents caused by inadequate repair and maintenance procedures and work during harbour stays. RCO 28, as it was designated, was proposed for implementation in the form of a safety checklist to be filled in prior to maintenance procedures. Views were expressed that principles for hot work on board all types of ships are already covered and in any case, such matters should be duly reflected in a ship’s safety management document under the ISM Code. The sub-committee thus concluded that measures for preventing fire and explosion accident caused by inadequate repair and maintenance procedures and work during harbour stays should be effected by the Administrations through the ISM Code including further strengthening of SMS procedures. It was therefore decided that no further action was necessary.

• IMO OPERATIONAL REFORM. Following on from Council’s proposed reforms to the IMO committee structure which would reduce the number of sub-committees from 9 to 7 (and result in financial savings for IMO and its Members), a discussion was held in FP 56. Some members deemed the process ‘irreversible’ whilst others expressed concern at having up to 5 Working Groups in one session which would be to the detriment of the smaller delegations unable to cover that number of WG’s. The Chairman noted a degree of consensus on the proposed re-organisation given flexibility in WG’s on important topics and also emphasised an increased need to prioritise the agenda. A short paper from the Secretariat to the sub-committees on ‘what is required’ was recommended prior to an intended IMO report in February 2013.

Captain Paddy McKnight END


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