IMO’s MSC 108 Advances Maritime Safety with Amendments

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The 108th session of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 108) took place from 15 to 24 May 2024, where important discussions were held and various amendments were adopted to advance maritime safety. According to DNV, during MSC 108 amendments enhancing the fire safety of Ro-Ro passenger ships were adopted, as well as amendments extending emergency towing equipment to new ships other than tankers, and amendments improving the safety measures for ships using natural gas as fuel, reports Safety4sea.

Meeting highlights

  • Adopted SOLAS amendments to extend the requirements for emergency towing equipment to all new ships over 20,000 GT.
  • Adopted amendments to SOLAS and the FSS Code to enhance the fire safety of Ro-Ro passenger ships.
  • Adopted IGF Code amendments for natural gas as fuel based on experience with the application of the code.
  • Approved interim guidelines for the use of LPG cargo as fuel.
  • Approved draft amendments to the IGC Code to enable the use of ammonia as fuel on ammonia carriers.
  • Approved goals and functional requirements for electrical and machinery installations in SOLAS Chapter II-1.
  • Progressed the new non-mandatory International Code for Safety for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS Code).
  • Considered the safety of alternative fuels and new technologies to support the reduction of GHG emissions from ships.

Amendments to Mandatory Instruments

Fire Safety of Ro-Ro Passenger Ships

The number of fire incidents on vehicle decks of Ro-Ro passenger ships has grown over the past decade. The physical extent of Ro-Ro ships’ vehicle decks could potentially allow a fire to spread over the full length of a ship. Hence, for Ro-Ro ships carrying passengers, extinguishing and containing a fire are particularly critical.

MSC 108 adopted amendments to SOLAS Chapter II-2 to reduce the risk and consequences of fire in Ro-Ro and special category spaces on new and existing Ro-Ro passenger ships by considering inter alia:

  • The arrangement of Ro-Ro spaces for new ships.
  • The arrangement of weather decks for new ships.
  • Water monitors on weather decks of existing ships.

Related amendments to the FSS Code were adopted to include:

  • New requirements for fixed water-based fire-extinguishing systems on weather decks intended for the carriage of vehicles (FSS Code, Chapter 7).
  • Specifications for linear heat detection systems, and combined smoke and heat detection systems (FSS Code, Chapter 9).

The amendments will enter into force on 1 January 2026.

Fire Protection of Control Stations in Cargo Ships

MSC 108 adopted amendments to SOLAS Regulation II-2/7.5.5 to extend the fire detection requirements for cargo ships to include control stations and cargo control rooms. Consequential amendments to the “Unified Interpretations of SOLAS Chapter II-2 and the FSS and FTP Codes” (MSC.1/Circ.1456) were approved accordingly. The Unified Interpretations will be issued as a new MSC Circular, superseding MSC.1/Circ.1456 and MSC.1/Circ.1492.

The amendments will enter into force on 1 January 2026.

Emergency Towing Equipment

MSC 108 adopted amendments to SOLAS Regulation II-1/3-4 to extend SOLAS requirements for emergency towing devices to all new ships over 20,000 gross tonnage to facilitate emergency assistance and towing operations, thereby reducing the risk of ship wreckage and pollution. Currently, tankers of 20,000 DWT and above are required to have an emergency towing device. Other cargo ships and passenger ships must have a towing procedure but are not required to have specific suitable equipment. Increased ship sizes, in general, complicate emergency towing to a safe place without suitable equipment.

An associated new set of guidelines for emergency towing arrangements on new ships other than tankers is under development by the SDC Sub-Committee. MSC 108 also agreed that consequential amendments to the “Guidelines for owners/operators on preparing emergency towing procedures” (MSC.1/Circ.1255) should be considered.

The amendments will enter into force on 1 January 2028.

Safety of Ships Using Natural Gas as Fuel (IGF Code)

MSC 108 adopted amendments to the International Code of Safety for Ships Using Gases or Other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code), based on experience with the code since its entry into force in 2017. The amendments include:

  • Alignment with the IGC Code on suction wells for fuel tanks extending below the lowermost boundary of the tank.
  • Alignment with the IGC Code on discharge from pressure relief valves to discharge to tank under certain conditions.
  • Clarified requirements to fire insulation for deck structures about fuel tanks on open deck.
  • Clarified requirements for hazardous ducts through non-hazardous spaces and vice versa.
  • Updated requirements for hazardous zone radius for fuel tank vent mast outlet, increasing to 6 m for zone 1 and 4 m for zone 2.

The amendments will enter into force on 1 January 2026.

Updated requirements to ensure the safe connection of a bunker system to a ship bunkering manifold (paragraphs 4.2.2 and 8.4.1 to 8.4.3 in Part A-1 of the IGF Code) are subject to voluntary early implementation by flag states. An MSC Circular will be issued in this respect.

Reporting on Loss of Containers at Sea

MSC 108 adopted amendments to SOLAS Chapter V to mandate the reporting of the loss of containers at sea. The amendments will enter into force on 1 January 2026.

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Source: Safety4sea