The IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee held its 97th Session (MSC 97) from Monday 21 through Friday 25 November 2016 chaired by Mr Brad Groves (AUSTRALIA) and his Vice-Chair, Mr Juan Cubisino (ARGENTINA), both of whom were re-elected for 2017.


Two working groups (WG) and one drafting group (DG)) were formed and chaired as follows:


WG1 Carriage of industrial personnel, Mr M Nunez (SPAIN)
WG2 Goal-based Standards, Mr J Sirkar (USA)
DG1 Amendments to Mandatory Instruments, Mr H Tunfors (SWEDEN)


The meeting was attended by delegates from 106 Member Governments, 2 Associate members of IMO, 2 Representatives from UN and Specialised Agencies, 5 Inter-Governmental Organisations and 43 Non-Governmental Organisations.


Following are a number of subjects most relevant to InterManager members, but if anyone wishes to pursue any of them to greater depth, please get in contact with Kuba or me (firstly) as we have ready access to more detailed information.


  • IMO SECRETARY-GENERAL’S ADDRESS.  In his welcoming address to Plenary, the Secretary-General informed delegates that every opportunity had been taken to widen awareness of this year’s World Maritime Day chosen theme “Shipping:  Indispensable to the World”, which included an event in Turkey parallel to that held at IMO.  This year’s theme will be built on in 2017 by focussing on the linkage between ships, ports and people.


On the basis that today, we live in a global society which is supported by a global economy, the broader challenge we all face is how to ensure that future growth can be achieved sustainably for all the world’s people, not just for a privileged few.  IMO’s contribution to this debate is to actively support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledged by world leaders in 2015.  Indeed, shipping and related maritime activities are essential components of future sustainable growth for the earth’s 7 billion plus inhabitants, though the search for growth in this sector – blue growth – is a balancing act which must take cognizance of the overall health of the seas and oceans themselves.  In his view, at a time of economic downturn and instability, it is critical that Member Governments and industry resist the temptation to cut corners to save money at the expense of safety, security and the marine environment.


Turning to the agenda for the meeting, he singled out a few of the key issues for discussion, including goal-based standards for new ship construction of bulk carriers and oil tankers, the carriage of more than 12 industrial personnel on board vessels engaged on international voyages, recent reports of attacks on ships off Bab-el-Mandeb and Somalia, cybersecurity, dissemination of lessons learned from marine casualties, amendments to mandatory IMO instruments and finally, Formal Safety Assessment.


The Secretary-General concluded his address by paying tribute to Captain John Briggs of AUSTRALIA, recently deceased, who chaired the Drafting Committee during the 1995 STCW Conference.


  • IMO BRAVERY AWARDS.  Presentation of the 2016 IMO Awards for Exceptional Bravery at Sea took place on the first day of the meeting as follows:


Certificates of Commendation were awarded to:


  • Mr Tang Shunjie of the Dong Hai Rescue Flight for rescuing the only survivor of a capsized fishing boat who had been trapped in the engine room for over 30 hours;
  • Captain Hervé Lepage, Master of the containership CMA CGM ROSSINI for rescuing two crew members of the capsized catamaran LAMA-LO in adverse weather conditions who had been drifting in a tender for 26 hours;
  • Shri B M Das, Uttam Navick, winch operator and diver of rescue helicopter CG822, Indian Coast Guard, for rescuing all 14 crew members of the cargo ship M/V COASTAL PRIDE which was rolling heavily in rough seas and strong winds; and
  • Assistant Inspector Kang Seonggyu, Korean Coast Guard for his role in locating and rescuing a crew member confined in an engine-room air pocket of the capsized Chinese fishing vessel NOYOUNGER 57189.


The recipient of the highest award, the 2016 Medal and Certificate was Captain Radhika Menon, Master of the M/T SAMPURNA SWARAJYA (INDIA) for her display of great determination and courage in rescuing 7 fishermen from the sinking vessel DURGAMMA.  The fishermen had been given up for dead after being adrift for 6 days, in fierce rain, wind speeds of 60 to 70 knots and 27-feet high waves.


  • AMENDMENTS TO MANDATORY INSTRUMENTS.  The Committee adopted the following amendments and the requisite MSC resolutions proposed by DG1 with an entry into force date of 1 January 2020, except where stated:


  1. Regulation II–1/3–12 and chapters II–2 and XI-1 of the 1974 SOLAS Convention;
  2. FSS Code (chapter 13);
  3. IGC Code para 3.2.5;
  4. 2011 ESP Code;
  5. Part A of the 2008 IS Code;
  6. Part B of the 2008 IS Code;
  7. The 1978 STCW Convention (E.I.F. date 1 July 2018)
  8. Part A of the 1978 STCW Code (E.I.F. date 1 July 2018); and
  9. Part B of the 1978 STCW Code (E.I.F. date 1 July 2018).


In addition, the Committee approved draft MSC Circulars relating to Notification of an amendment to para 3.2.5 of the IGC Code and Unified interpretations relating to the application of certain SOLAS regulations and the FSS Code.


  • GOAL-BASED NEW SHIP CONSTRUCTION STANDARDS.  By way of background, it will be recalled that the final GBS Verification Audits amongst the 12 IACS member ROs (Recognised Organisations) found 6 non-conformities (NC) and 88 observations (OB).  Notwithstanding, MSC 96 agreed that the CSR Rules conformed to the GBS Standards whilst stipulating that the Class Societies should rectify the NC’s and report on the OBs in future.  The deadline for NC rectification is at the end of 2016 and these will be discussed at MSC 98.  WG2 was formed and following its three days of discussion, the Committee approved their report in general and, in particular:


  1. Noted the progress made by the Group on the preparation of draft amendments to the GBS Verification Guidelines;
  2. Endorsed a recommendation for inviting proposals related to the concept of an ongoing systematic verification of rules, i.e. “Periodic Verification”, in the revised GBS Verification Guidelines;
  3. Endorsed the WG view that remaining work concerning amendments to the GBS Verification Guidelines should focus on unresolved issues and any issues yet to be considered, based on WG2’s report;
  4. Approved a revised timetable and schedule of activities for the implementation of the GBS verification scheme (which would see the Revised Guidelines taking effect in November 2019);
  5. Noted the information and data available, including the experience gained during the initial verification audits in relating to the financial arrangements in place;
  6. Noted the views expressed by the auditors after the initial verification audits regarding financial matters; and
  7. Endorsed the recommendation to invite Member States and international organisations to submit proposals regarding financial arrangements for the maintenance of verification.
  • CARRIAGE OF MORE THAN 12 INDUSTRIAL PERSONNEL ON BOARD VESSELS ENGAGED ON INTERNATIONAL VOYAGES.  MSC 96 was unable to finalise a draft Recommendation providing an interim solution for safe carriage of industrial personnel due to complex legal issues for which a supplemental legal advice was subsequently provided by the Secretariat.    Pending the development and entry into force of a new chapter of SOLAS along with a new code to address such carriage, it was decided that there is indeed an urgent need for an interim solution.  After an in-depth discussion, a preference for Option 1 in document MSC 97/6 was expressed (i.e. creating a definition of industrial personnel by means of an MSC resolution, specifically stating that industrial personnel are not passengers within the meaning of SOLAS regulation 1/2 (e) and identifying the applicable interim standards within this resolution) and WG2 was duly formed.  Having considered WG2’s report, the Committee approved it in general and, in particular:
  1. Adopted the draft MSC resolution on Interim Recommendations on the safe carriage of more than 12 industrial personnel on board vessels engaged on international voyages;
  2. Endorsed the group’s view that the proposed definitions should be the basis for developing a mandatory instrument;
  3. Approved a roadmap for further development by SDC when developing the draft new code and the new SOLAS chapter XV; and
  4. Encouraged Member States and international organisations to submit concrete proposals for consideration at SDC 4.
  • NAVIGATION, COMMUNICATIONS, SEARCH AND RESCUE. The work of the Sub-Committee was scrutinised and decisions were taken as follows:


  1. Adoption of amendments to the General provisions on ships’ routeing (resolution A 572 (14), as amended) on establishing multiple structures at sea;
  2. Approval of draft MSC Circulars on amendments to the International Safety Net Manual, the NAVTEX Manual and the revised unified interpretation of SOLAS regulation V/ 23.3.3 on Pilot transfer arrangements;
  3. Renaming of the previous GISIS COMSAR module to the Global SAR Plan module together with development of a new GISIS module on Maritime Assistance Services and development of a further new GISIS module on Shore-based facilities for the GMDSS;
  4. In consideration of UK’s submission (MSC 97/7/4) on the subject of the Inmarsat FleetBroadband Maritime Safety Data Service (MSDS) for recognition and use in the GMDSS, NCSR4 was instructed to consider how the process should be undertaken and, in particular, whether to consider it as a new application, or as a bolt-on addition to the existing services; and
  5. Following a prolonged debate in Plenary as to the merits of modifying the requirement to audit the International LRIT Data Exchange on an annual basis, rather than 3-yearly as at present, the Chair ruled that further consultation between interested parties (IMSO and the EU bloc) was needed to explore a compromise solution.


  • SHIP SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT. The outcome of Sub-Committee SSE 3 was reviewed and decisions taken as follows:


  1. Approval of a draft MSC circular on Amendments to the Guidelines on alternative design and arrangements for fire safety;
  2. Approval of draft MSC circular on Shipboard escape route signs and emergency equipment markings and an instruction for the Secretariat, in cooperation with the ISO Central Secretariat, to prepare a draft resolution containing the graphical symbols from ISO24409-2 : 2014 for consideration at SSE4;
  3. Approval of draft amendments to MSC.1/Circ.1490/rev1 regarding remotely located survival craft.


  • CARRIAGE OF CARGOES AND CONTAINERS. In consideration of urgent matters referred to it by Sub-Committee CCC3, the Committee:


  1. Adopted an MSC resolution on Interim recommendations for carriage of liquid hydrogen in bulk;
  2. Approved draft amendments to the IMSBC Code highlighting the responsibility of the shipper for ensuring that a test to determine the transportable moisture limit (TML) of a solid bulk cargo be conducted, with a view to adoption at MSC 98;
  3. Approved draft amendments to the IMSBC Code related to substances that are harmful to the marine environment; and
  4. Approved Unified Interpretations to the IGF and IGC Codes.


  • IMPLEMENTATION OF THE STCW CONVENTION. With the approaching end of the transitional provisions of the 2010 Manila Amendments to the STCW Convention on 31 December 2016, concern was expressed regarding the status of compliance of some parties, given that a number of Administrations may not be in a position to issue STCW certificates in accordance with the requirement of the Convention by 1 January 2017.  As this is most certainly not the fault of the crew on board, or its company, the Committee agreed to issue a MSC circular providing advice to port State control authorities and recognised organisations for a practical and pragmatic approach for a period of 6 months (i.e. until 1 July 2017) to be taken during inspections in cases where seafarers had not been issued with certificates in compliance with the 2010 Manila Amendments.


The circular will include advice to Flag States, Port States, Class and other Recognised Organisations (RO).  In particular, Flag Administrations will be recommended to inform Class and other ROs issuing ISM certificates before 1 July 2017, that it will be sufficient to inform them when assessing compliance with the ISM Code, if a seafarer’s documentation has not been issued in accordance with the 2010 Manila Amendments to the Convention.


  • MEASURES TO ENHANCE MARITIME SECURITY. Following discussion in Plenary, including consideration of a document by the Islamic Republic of Iran proposing development of a mandatory instrument to ensure consistent application of cyber security measures and procedures on board ships and on shore-based systems interfacing with ships, the Committee expressed a preference to wait for FAL 41 to complete its work on facilitation aspects before giving further consideration to any mandatory nature of the Guidelines.


GEORGIA and UKRAINE invited the Committee to approve a draft Assembly resolution on Safety and security of navigation in the North-Eastern part of the Black Sea which was repudiated by the RUSSIAN FEDERATION in that the proposal is outside IMO’s mandate.   Following fairly heated discussion, it was concluded that the IMO is not the appropriate forum to discuss such a matter but that Member States and interested parties should notify IMO of any threat to navigation within that area, for circulation in accordance with IMO procedures.




  1. Endorsed the issuance of III.3/Circ.4 on Casualty Analysis and Statistics containing observations on the quality of investigation reports into accidents;
  2. Endorsed a methodology agreed by III 3 for developing guidelines for port State control (PSC);
  3. With regard to early implementation of amendments to SOLAS, the Committee reiterated the need to follow the four-year cycle of entry into force whilst further consideration should be given to ‘early application’ in lieu of ‘early implementation’, as appropriate;
  4. Approved the draft MSC-MEPC.5 circular of a UI on the expiry date of statutory certificates; and
  5. Approved the consolidated FAL/MEPC/MSC circular on ‘List of certificates and documents required to be carried on board ships’ subject to concurrent approval by FAL 41 and LEG 104.


  • PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AGAINST SHIPS. According to data received on GISIS, up until 5 September 2016, a reduction of about 35% of piracy and armed robbery related to incidents at the global level compared to 2015 had been observed.  However, an increase in incidents of 96% over the same period had been seen in West Africa.  The EU Naval Force Operation Atalanta, which operates off the coast of Somalia, has recently had its counter-piracy mandate extended to the end of 2018.   However, 10 seafarers taken from the fishing dhow SIRAJ continue to be held in captivity in Somalia since March 2015.


Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Guinea, a new ‘Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade (MDAT-GoG) has been established by the Governments of FRANCE and the U.K. and went live on 20 June 2016 from centres in Brest and Portsmouth, which aims to contribute to maritime security and safety in the Gulf of Guinea and help to protect regional and intercontinental trade.


Finally, the Committee noted with appreciation the information provided in document MSC 97/INF.7 by Re CAAP-ISC providing an update on piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia for the first part of 2016.


  • UNSAFE MIXED MIGRATION BY SEA. No documents were submitted on this item either to MSC 96 or MSC 97 but the Committee invited Member States and international organisations to submit documents to the next session and encouraged Member States to report any incident via the facilitation module in GISIS.


  • LIFEBOATS. InterManager co-sponsored paper MSC 97/19/4 headed by the MARSHALL ISLANDS proposing consideration of industry-developed guidelines for simulated launching of free-fall lifeboats by the SSE Sub-Committee.  The current requirements include activation of the release mechanism while the lifeboat remains in its stowed position and the co-sponsors of the paper seek an amendment to ensure that during mandatory drills, the release mechanism is not activated.  This would provide an additional means of avoiding activation of the release mechanism which for a variety of reasons has been a major contributor to numerous accidents.  After a very short discussion, the Committee agreed to instruct SSE 4 when conducting a detailed review of the draft MSC circular on Guidelines on safety during abandon ship drills using lifeboats and the Guidelines for developing operation and maintenance manuals for lifeboat systems (MSC.1/Cir.1205) that in order to capture possible inconsistences emanating from the ‘Requirements for maintenance, thorough examination, operational testing, overhaul and repair of lifeboats and rescue boats, launching appliances and release gear (resolution MSC.402 (96))’, should include consideration of the industry developed draft amendments to these guidelines.


  • DATE OF NEXT MEETING. MSC 98 will convene from 7 – 16 June 2017.



Captain Paddy McKnight                                                                                                                END


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