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IMO holds it’s 105th Session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC)

Published on: 19 May 2022

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At the end of April (20-29) the IMO held its 105th session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC). This meeting was held remotely and the following topics of interest to the superyacht, leisure and small commercial vessel sectors were discussed:

Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) – This committee had previously agreed autonomy can been identified as follows:

  • Degree One: Ship with automated processes and decision support: Seafarers are on board to operate and control shipboard systems and functions. Some operations may be automated and at times be unsupervised but with seafarers on board ready to take control.
  • Degree Two: Remotely controlled ship with seafarers on board: The ship is controlled and operated from another location. Seafarers are available on board to take control and to operate the shipboard systems and functions.
  • Degree Three: Remotely controlled ship without seafarers on board: The ship is controlled and operated from another location. There are no seafarers on board.
  • Degree Four: Fully autonomous ship: The operating system of the ship is able to make decisions and determine actions by itself.

Because the concept of MASS is at such an early stage, there can be no prescriptive regulation at present and the Committee decided to work on a goal-based instrument, in the form of a non-mandatory code with a view to adoption in the latter part of 2024. 

Following experience gained with this initial instrument a mandatory MASS Code is planned with an entry into force on 1 January 2028. In the first instance, the Code is to apply to cargo ships (which would include yachts carrying up to 12 guests).

Work on the non-mandatory code will begin intersessionally via a correspondence group. The correspondence group was instructed to submit a written report to MSC 107 (spring 2023), with a verbal status report at MSC 106 in November.

Enhancing the safety of ships relating to the use of oil fuel - Fuel oil safety is regulated in MARPOL Annex VI, however, it was agreed at MSC 100 that the issues of safety related to low-sulphur fuels should be addressed within SOLAS. As a result, the Committee approved draft amendments to SOLAS chapter II-2 in relation to flashpoint, for circulation with a view to adoption at MSC 106.

The draft amendments require that ships shall, prior to bunkering, be provided with a declaration signed and certified by the fuel oil supplier's representative that the oil fuel supplied is in conformity with regulation SOLAS II.2/4.2.1. The declaration must also provide details on the test method used for determining the flashpoint. A bunker delivery note for the fuel delivered to the ship shall contain the flashpoint specified in accordance with standards acceptable to the organisation, or a statement that flashpoint has been measured at or above 70ºC.

The Committee agreed to re-establish the Correspondence Group to develop guidelines for sampling procedures and to consider possible additional safety measures.

The draft SOLAS amendments and terms of reference of the correspondence group can be found in the report of the fuel oil working group in attached document MSC 105/WP.10.

Modernisation of GMDSS –  The SOLAS amendments approved at NCSR 8 were adopted at this session.

These amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2024. With respect to the amendments the following should be noted:

  • The carriage requirements for radio equipment will not change
  • Although the Iridium system is now approved for use in the GMDSS (letter of compliance issued December 2019) it will still be necessary to carry HF equipment when operating in polar regions

New outputs – The Committee agreed a number of new outputs. Those likely to have an impact on the leisure and yachting sector are:

1. Revision of the Guidelines for the application of plastic pipes on ships

2. "Evaluation of adequacy of fire protection, detection and extinction arrangements in vehicle, special category and ro-ro spaces in order to reduce the fire risk of ships carrying new energy vehicles” based on document MSC 104/15/19 

3. Guidelines for the use of electronic nautical publications (ENPs)

4. Comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code.

The full ICOMIA report from the IMO meeting and all its associated documents can be downloaded from the British Marine website here.