The IMO Maritime Safety Committee held its 98th Session (MSC 98) from Wednesday 9 through Friday 15 June 2017 under the Chairmanship of Mr Brad Groves (AUSTRALIA) and his Vice-Chair, Mr Juan Carlos Cubisino (ARGENTINA), both of whom were re-elected for 2018.  Three Working Groups (WG) and one Drafting Group (DG) were formed and chaired as follows:


WG1                Goal-based Standards, Mr J Sirkar (USA)

WG2                Early Implementation/Application of IMO Instruments,

Mr N Boldt (GERMANY)

WG3                Maritime Security, Mrs Farrah Mohd Fadil (SINGAPORE)

DG1                Amendments to Mandatory Instruments, Mr H Tunfors (SWEDEN)


The meeting was attended by representatives from 110 IMO Member Governments, 2 Associate Member Governments, 3 UN and Specialised Agencies, 6 Inter-Governmental Organisations and 48 Non-Governmental organisations.


Items of particular interest to InterManager Members are as follows:


IMO SECRETARY GENERAL’S ADDRESS.  The Secretary General, Mr K Lim, welcomed everyone.  Mr Lim repeated the message he delivered to preceding meetings of IMO Committees, that the theme of this year’s World Maritime Day “Connecting Ships, Ports and People”, would encourage Member States to develop and implement a more comprehensive approach to addressing a whole range of issues.  These include safety of life at sea, maritime security, protection of the environment, facilitation of maritime transport and increasing the efficiency of shipping operations.  He believed that the theme would provide a good opportunity to improve cooperation between ports and ships thus developing a closer partnership.  In his view, the most important pillar of this theme is “the people” who are the core element of the Industry and who need to be appropriately trained and qualified in order to achieve the necessary competence.  To this end, the Industry needs to provide a career path matching the aspirations of those capable young people it urgently needs to attract and retain.  Mr Lim went on to speculate what the future might hold for the Organisation (i.e. the IMO), concluding that its support for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development dictated a commitment to “blue growth” to the overall health of the seas and oceans themselves since they are currently a clear cause for concern.


Mr Lim next spoke of the packed meeting that would see intense activity over eight working days to consider 111 documents submitted under the 22 items on the agenda.  He highlighted some of the key issues to be considered such as goal-based standards for new construction of bulk carriers and oil tankers, early implementation/application of mandatory requirements, maritime security, draft amendments to SOLAS Chapter IV, amendments to mandatory instruments, also their implementation, and Polar Code application.


AMENDMENTS TO MANDATORY INSTRUMENTS.  Following extensive discussion in Plenary, the Drafting Group was formed.  The DG report sent back to Plenary was approved in general, and in particular, the Committee:


  1. with regard to the footnote to SOLAS regulation II-1/, which refers to the Code of safety for special purpose ships, 2008 (resolution MSC.266(84)), endorsed the Group’s recommendation to add “, as amended” after resolution MSC266(84);
  2. adopted the amendments to chapters II-1, II-2, and III, and the appendix to the annex of the 1974 SOLAS Convention;
  3. adopted the proposed amendments to chapter 11 of the IGF Code;
  4. adopted the proposed amendments to chapter 8 of the 1994 HSC Code;
  5. adopted the proposed amendments to chapter 8 of the 2000 HSC Code;
  6. adopted the proposed amendments to chapter VI of the LSA Code;
  7. with regard to the protection for persons, invited interested Member States and international organizations to submit comments and proposals to the CCC Sub-Committee;
  8. noted the Group’s discussion on consistency matters within the IMSBC Code and instructed the CCC Sub-Committee to carry out an editorial harmonization;
  9. adopted the proposed amendments to the IMSBC Code;
  10. adopted the proposed amendments to the Revised recommendation on testing of life-saving appliances (resolution MSC.81(70));
  11. approved Revised Guidance for watertight doors on passenger ships which may be opened during navigation;
  12. approved Lists of solid bulk cargoes for which a fixed gas fire-extinguishing system may be exempted or for which a fixed gas fire-extinguishing system is ineffective; and
  13. authorised the Secretariat to effect any minor editorial corrections that may be identified.

NOTE:  Consequential amendments to MSC Resolutions and Circulars, where appropriate will also be effected.


EARLY IMPLEMENTATION / APPLICATION OF IMO INSTRUMENTS.  This item was included in the Agenda resulting from a decision taken by MSC 97 with a view to reviewing related matters including SOLAS and related mandatory instruments, including corrections to existing provisions in force or about to become effective.  Eight documents were submitted and debated after which WG2 was established.  WG2’s report back to the Committee was approved in general, and in particular:


  1. endorsed some basic principles for early implementation of amendments to SOLAS and related mandatory instruments.  This would be the sole decision of a Contracting Government and the draft Guidelines should not contain any aspect related to the early entry into force which might be treated as changes to the four-year cycle of SOLAS amendments;
  2. endorsed a definition of the term “voluntary early implementation” to mean “a decision taken by a Contracting Government to the Convention to bring into effect the adopted amendment(s), with respect to ships entitled to fly its flag, prior to the entry-into-force date of those amendments”;
  3. endorsed an approach that criteria for voluntary early implementation should not overlap exceptional circumstances, and considerations should not lead to a “yes/no” decision, rather it should lend flexibility in the decision-making process based on existing MSC circulars concerning early implementation;
  4. endorsed the recommendation that any decision regarding voluntary early implementation should be clearly recorded in the report of the Committee;
  5. endorsed the view that voluntary early implementation should only be used on very rare occasions;
  6. endorsed the proposal that a new area “Voluntary early implementation” should be created in the GISIS module “Survey and Certification” for which the Secretariat were requested to prepare technical specifications for early presentation to the III Sub-Committee;
  7. agreed that Contracting Governments may use existing provisions for equivalent arrangements under SOLAS regulation 1/5 to cover the interim period between the voluntary and entry-into-force date of the amendment(s);
  8. endorsed the propriety of encouraging Contracting Governments to take into account the Committee’s invitation on voluntary early implementation and decisions by flag States to implement amendment(s) early;
  9. endorsed development of a uniform template for MSC circulars on voluntary early implementation;
  10. approved draft Guidelines on the voluntary early implementation of amendments to SOLAS and related mandatory instruments, plus MSC circular;
  11. endorsed the decision to amend the Procedures for Port State Control, 2011 (resolution A.1052(27)) and, in particular, the new text to be introduced in the Procedures;
  12. endorsed a recommendation to instruct III 4 to decide where the new text should be introduced in the Procedures;
  13. endorsed the decision to develop and approve a draft MSC circular on voluntary early implementation of amendments to SOLAS regulations II-2/1 and II-2/10 following the new template;
  14. approved the draft MSC circular on notification of amendments to SOLAS regulation II-1/12.5.1;
  15. approved the draft MSC circular on notification of amendments to paragraph 11.3.2 of the IGF Code; and
  16. approved the draft MSC circular on notification of amendments to paragraphs and of the 1994 and 2000 HSC Codes.


MEASURES TO ENHANCE MARITIME SECURITY.  Following discussions in Plenary on Cyber Risk Management, Model courses related to maritime security and Communication of information through the Maritime Security Module of GISIS, WG3 was established.  Following WG3’s deliberations, having considered the working group’s report, the Committee approved it in general, and in particular:


  1. agreed that there is an urgent need to raise awareness of cyber risk threats and vulnerabilities in order to support safe and secure shipping that is operationally resilient to cyber risks. This could be considered as part of existing safety management systems;
  2. noted in general, group discussions on the relationship between the recommendatory “Guidelines on maritime cyber risk management” and the existing requirement of the ISM Code, as well as the need to achieve a pragmatic and straightforward implementation schedule;
  3. adopted an MSC resolution on maritime cyber risk management in safety management systems;
  4. considered updating MSC.1/Circ.1371 on List of Codes, recommendations, guidelines and other safety and security-related non-mandatory instruments;
  5. validated draft amendments to model course 3.21 on Port Facility Security Officer, instructing the Secretariat to issue an early corrigendum;
  6. approved TORs for the review of model course 3.24 on Security awareness training for port facility personnel with designated duties, for validation by MSC 99;
  7. appointed the Islamic Republic of Iran as course developer for revision of model course 3.24 with Malaysia as the review group coordinator;
  8. urged the MDAT-GoG that it should work in collaboration with coastal States in the implementation of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct; and
  9. approved the MSC circular on Reporting of incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Gulf of Guinea.


GOAL-BASED NEW SHIP CONSTRUCTION STANDARDS.  This item is probably of peripheral interest to InterManager members but a few aspects may be worthy of note.  Debate in Plenary centred on the GBS non-conformities verification audit report, ongoing work related to GBS and GBS-SLA (Safety Level Approach) and amendments to parts A and B of the GBS Verification Guidelines.  Following Plenary discussion, a Working Group on Goal-based Standards (WG1) was established and instructed to finalise draft amendments to Parts A and B of the GBS Verification Guidelines, also to update the revised timetable and schedule of activities for the implementation of the GBS verification scheme.  In considering the subsequent report of WG1, the Committee approved it in general and in particular:


  1. noted that the revision of Part A of the GBS Verification Guidelines had been completed and endorsed it in principle;
  2. noted that Member States and international organisations may submit proposals on other approaches for the maintenance of verification prior to adoption of the draft Revised guidelines at MSC 100;
  3. noted progress on draft amendments to Part B of the GBS Verification Guidelines, and endorsed the view that remaining work should be focussed on unresolved issues as well as new proposals to MSC 99;
  4. approved a revised timetable and schedule of activities for implementation of the GBS verification scheme and stipulated that the maintenance of verification report should be submitted to MSC 100;
  5. endorsed the recommendation that the SSE Sub-Committee be instructed to consider three basic principles specified by WG1 when describing the draft functional requirements (expected performance) in quantitative terms; and
  6. endorsed WG1’s proposed course of action for further development of the draft interim Guidelines for development and application of GBS-SLA.


POLLUTION PREVENTION AND RESPONSE (REPORT OF PPR 4).  The Committee took action as follows:


  1. subject to concurrent approval by MEPC 71, approved in principle the draft revised chapter 21 of the IBC Code pending similar revision of chapters 17 and 18; and
  2. approved a draft Assembly resolution on the Code for the Transport and Handling of Hazardous and Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk on Offshore Support Vessels (OSV Chemical Code).


HUMAN ELEMENT, TRAINING AND WATCHKEEPING (REPORT OF STW 4).  The Committee approved STW 4’s report in general, and in particular, took action as follows:


  1. renamed the output on ‘Guidance for the implementation of the 2010 Manila amendments’ to ‘Guidance for STCW Code, section B-1/2’;
  2. approved the framework for a new GISIS module related to reporting and information requirements of the STCW Convention, 1978;
  3. endorsed HTW 4’s approval (STCW.7/Circ.24) of ‘Interim Guidance for Parties, Administrations, port State control authorities, recognised organisations and other relevant parties on the requirements under the STCW Convention, 1978, as amended’;
  4. deleted the word ‘Interim’ in the Guidance for port State control officers on issues related to certificates of competency (STCW.7/Circ.24/Rev 1);
  5. approved amendments to MSC.1/Circ.1503 on ECDIS-Guidance for good practice issuing it as 1503/Rev 1;
  6. extended the target for completion year of the output on Revision of guidelines on fatigue to 2018 and in addition, agreed that general references to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006, could be made in the body of the revised Guidelines on Fatigue, but that the interpretation of, and guidance on, any standards of the MLC referenced in the revised Guidelines should be avoided.
  7. approved draft Guidelines for port State control officers on certification of seafarers, hours of rest and manning, referring the Guidelines to III 4 for inclusion in the ongoing work on the revision of resolution A.1052(27) on Procedures for port State control, 2011;
  8. approved Guidelines for Dynamic Positioning system (DP) operator training (MSC.1/Circ.738/Rev2);
  9. confirmed that the procedures for the assessment of information provided had been correctly followed in respect of seven STCW Parties and encouraged all Parties to the STCW Convention to submit their reports of independent evaluation in accordance with regulation 1/8 of the STCW Convention; and
  10. approved additional competent persons nominated by Member States (MSC 98/9/1).


SHIP DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION (SDC 4).  The Committee approved, in general, SDC 4’s report and most notably:


  1. bearing in mind the decision to draft guidelines on stability computers and shore-based support for existing passenger ships, the Committee extended the target completion year for the output to 2018;
  2. approved Guidelines for damage control plans and information to the master (MSC.1/Circ.1245);
  3. approved Interim guidelines for use of Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) elements within structures: Fire safety issues; and
  4. following a fairly lengthy debate on the second phase of the Polar Code work regarding when it should begin, the scope of application and recommendatory/mandatory status, it was decided to change the title of the output to “Safety measures for non-SOLAS ships operating in polar waters” and the policy decisions described above will be taken at MSC 99.


NAVIGATION, COMMUNICATIONS AND SEARCH AND RESCUE (NCSR 4).  The Committee approved in general, the report of NCSR 4 and in particular:


  1. adopted the Traffic separation scheme and three new routeing measures (already described in my report of meeting NCSR 4) for implementation on 1 January 2018 at 0000 hours UTC;
  2. in order to avoid multiple amendments to resolution MSC.252(83) on Revised performance standards for integrated navigation systems (INS), postponed approval until related work on the ‘Guidelines for the harmonised display of information received via communications equipment’ is completed at NCSR 5;
  3. approved the Modernisation Plan for the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS);
  4. endorsed the view that the recognition of the Inmarsat Fleet Broadband Maritime Data Service for use in GMDSS should be treated as a new application and invited IMSO to undertake the necessary technical and operational assessments for consideration by the NCSR Sub-Committee;
  5. endorsed the view that it is important to consider the risks associated with light-emitting diodes (LED) used in emergency equipment, navigation aids and obstruction lighting not detectable by night vision equipment;
  6. agreed to activate the IMO/IHO Harmonisation Group on Data Modelling (HGDM) to work only on the output “Develop guidance on definition and harmonisation of the format and structure of MSPs” and endorsed holding the first meeting of the Group at IMO from 16 to 20 October 2017; and
  7. endorsed the establishment of an NCSR Correspondence Group on consequential work (of matters within the purview of NCSR) related to the Polar Code.


SHIP SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT (SSE 4).  The Committee approved, in general, the report of the fourth session of SSE and in particular:


  1. in consideration of the ‘Guidelines on safety during abandon ship drills using lifeboats’ and recognising the need to appropriately address the crew’s familiarisation with the activation of the free-fall lifeboats’ release mechanism, the Committee approved an MSC Circular which addresses the concerns expressed by FRANCE in document MSC 98/12/4 arguing for consistency with the provisions of SOLAS regulation III/;
  2. the Committee also approved Amendments to the guidelines for developing operations and maintenance manuals for lifeboat systems (MSC.1/Circ.1205);
  3. after an in-depth discussion, the Committee agreed to instruct SSE 5 to further consider a draft amendment to paragraph of the LSA Code, taking into account the views expressed in Plenary at this session. These views are not included in the interest of brevity, but a detailed account of the debate is available should anyone require it;
  4. endorsed a work plan to review the development of requirements for onboard lifting appliances and winches and decided that determination of which SOLAS chapter should include the new OLAW (“out of order/service”) provisions needed further consideration at SSE 5;
  5. approved draft Escape route signs and equipment location markings for adoption by Assembly (A 30);
  6. approved ‘Amendments to the guidelines for evaluation and replacement of lifeboat release and retrieval systems (MSC.1/Circ.1392); and
  7. noted that the Secretariat had prepared a corrigendum to the ‘Requirements for maintenance, thorough examination, operational testing, overhaul and repair of lifeboats and rescue boats, launching appliances and release gear issued as MSC 96/25/Add/1/Corr.1.


PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AGAINST SHIPS.  The Committee noted that in the 2016 annual report on acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, a total of 221 piracy and armed robbery incidents had occurred worldwide in 2016, representing a reduction of about 27% compared to 2015, where 303 incidents were reported.  However, the Committee noted with concern that in West Africa, incidents had increased by 77% (62 incidents in 2016 against 35 in 2015) and although piracy and armed robbery activity in the South China Sea had decreased slightly with 68 cases reported in 2016 compared to 81 in 2015, developments in the South East Asian region, particularly in the Sulu-Celebes Sea, were also concerning (two incidents in 2015 and 16 in 2016).  In addition, piracy activity off the coast of Somalia was still active, with eight incidents reported between January and April 2017 involving six merchant ships and two dhows and around 39 crew members taken hostage/kidnapped.  Thus merchant shipping was advised to continue taking protective measures against possible piracy attacks through diligent application of IMO guidance and best management practices (BMP).  The Committee noted with appreciation the update provided by Re-CAAP-ICS (Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combatting Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia – Information Sharing Centre) and the latest situation report on piracy against ships in Asia.  The Secretary General thanked Re-CAAP-ISC for the work done, based on good cooperation with coastal States, as well as to the coastal States in the Asia-Pacific region for the actions taken to address the issue of piracy.  He also thanked EU NAVFOR for protecting merchant ships transiting the Gulf of Aden and western Indian Ocean and NATO forces.  The Committee noted with appreciation the new “Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea” (or MDAT–GoG) established by FRANCE and the UK in June 2016 and that the information provided by ships to MDAT-GoG when transiting West African waters was helping to build a common maritime picture between countries in the region and support actions and interventions by regional navies in response to piracy attacks.  Following consideration of document MSC 98/15/1 expressing concern over alleged significant under-reporting of piracy and armed robbery incidents within the Gulf of Guinea region (estimated to be 60%/70%), the Committee urged all involved to conduct accurate and timely reporting of information on such incidents to the IMB Reporting Centre (PRC) and to the MDAT-GoG.  This would permit a better response by coastal States, promptly alerting other ships in the vicinity and develop a more meaningful understanding of the associated risk level.  The Committee authorised the NATO Shipping Centre to use data from the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) to create and share reports on piracy and armed robbery at sea to help raise awareness of current trends.  In relation to incident reporting and privately contracted armed security personnel, Member States were requested to complete the questionnaire annexed to MSC-FAL.1/Circ.2.  Following discussion of document MSC 91/15/2 (INDIA) proposing the development of draft guidelines for floating armouries to assist Member States, shipowners, ship operators and seafarers while using merchant ships as floating armouries, the Committee invited the Secretary-General to convey an invitation to the CGPCS to consider India’s proposal in detail, through its Working Group on legal matters, and to submit advice to MSC 99.  Finally, following discussion of a proposal by OMAN to further amend the boundaries of the northern portion of the High Risk Area (HRA), as defined by BMP 4 (since no ship has been hijacked in the  western part of the Arabian Sea during the last three years), there was general support and the Industry co-authors of BMP 4, led by ICS, indicated that further consideration will be given to the proposal in consultation with OMAN, the outcome of which will be reported to the next session of the Committee.


UNSAFE MIXED MIGRATION BY SEA.  No document had been submitted on this agenda item to MSC 96 or MSC 97 but thankfully, ICS saved Member States’ blushes on this occasion at MSC 98.  The document provided information on the increasing death toll of migrants attempting to reach Europe via the central Mediterranean region which showed that, based on data available from UNHCR and IOM there were:


  1. in 2014, 170,000 arrivals by sea and an estimated 3,200 migrants reported dead or missing;
  2. in 2015, 153,846 arrivals by sea with 2,913 migrants reported dead or missing;
  3. in 2016, 181,436 arrivals by sea, with 4,578 migrants reported dead or missing; and
  4. in one month, January 2017, there were 4,467 arrivals by sea with 222 migrants dead or missing. The equivalent figures for January 2016 were 5,273 and 87 respectively.


The upward trend in migrants reported dead or missing is of particular concern although it was noted that despite MSC 97’s encouragement to Member States to report any incidents on GISIS, only one had done so using the GISIS facilitation module.  However, it was agreed that the way forward is to promote appropriate and effective action at the United Nations.  Further opinions were expressed that SAR is not an acceptable long-term response, though international legislation, including UNCLOS, SOLAS and SAR established the obligations of coastal States to provide SAR services and to rescue persons in distress irrespective of their origin.  Finally, it was recognised that there is potential for a traumatic long-term impact to seafarers involved in large-scale rescue operations as, unlike Coast Guards, military and SAR personnel, they are simply not trained for such situations.


WORK PROGRAMME.  Following extensive discussions, the Committee:


  1. expressed general support for an output on a regulatory scoping exercise on Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) incorporating legal aspects and which will be placed on the provisional agenda of MSC 99; and
  2. agreed to include in the post-biennial MSC agenda and the provisional agenda for SSE 5, an output on “Development of guidelines for cold ironing of ships” in association with the SDC and III Sub-Committees as and when requested by the SSE Sub-Committee.


THEMATIC PRIORITIES FOR THE INTEGRATED TECHNICAL COOPERATION PROGRAMME (ITCP).  The Committee agreed thematic priorities for the TCC as follows:


  1. seafarers’ training and human element (priority 1);
  2. maritime security and anti-piracy measures (priority 2);
  3. IMDG and IMSBC Codes (priority 5); and
  4. Safety of fishing vessels (priorities 6 & 7).


SAFETY MEASURES RELATING TO MAN OVERBOARD (MOB)_ INCIDENTS OF SEAFARERS.  PANAMA reported a number of man overboard (MOB) incidents of seafarers between 2013 and 2015, emphasising that none of these resulted in a safe recovery.  Submission 98/22/4 (PANAMA, IMCA) proposed a number of possible measures in order to increase the probability of success but MSC 98/22/9 by CLIA commented on the PANAMA document highlighting possible drawbacks on some of the proposed measures in order to increase the visibility and location of crew members during an MOB casualty.  Following discussion, the Committee encouraged all to exchange information on equipment, operational procedures and other aspects of prevention, response and recovery in the context of MOB incidents.


FUEL OIL WITH A SULPHUR CONTENT OF 0.05% m/m.  After an extensive discussion and taking into account views expressed, the Committee:


  1. emphasised that the requirement in SOLAS chapter II-2 for the flashpoint of oil fuel remains at 60oC for ships that do not comply with the IGF Code;
  2. reiterated that the use of oil fuel with a flashpoint below 60oC is limited to ships that comply with the IGF Code, except as otherwise permitted in SOLAS regulation II-2/4.2.1;
  3. encouraged interested Member States and international organisations to submit proposals to the CCC Sub-Committee with a view to developing specific requirements for low-flashpoint oil fuel, within the context of the IGF Code only, under output (Amendments to the IGF Code and development of guidelines for low-flashpoint fuels);
  4. invited MEPC 71, when considering the draft justification for the proposed output on “Consistent implementation of regulation 14.1.3 of MARPOL Annex VI” developed by PPR 4, to explicitly add, in the scope of the proposed output, considerations on the safety implications relating to the option of blending fuels in order to meet the 0.05% m/m sulphur limit that is due to take effect on 1 January 2020; and
  5. instructed the PPR Sub-Committee to report any safety issues that may be identified with regard to low-sulphur fuel subject to concurrence by MEPC 71.


DATE OF NEXT MEETING.  The Committee noted that its ninety-ninth session has been tentatively scheduled from 16 to 25 May 2018;  and its one hundredth session from 3 to 7 December 2018.




Captain Paddy McKnight                                                                                            End




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