Summary of the 102nd session of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 102)

By Hendrike Kühl, IUMI Policy Director

The Maritime Safety Committee met virtually for its 102nd session from 4-11 November 2020. The meeting was chaired by Brad Grove from Australia. IUMI was in attendance with Lars Lange, Hendrike Kühl and Helle Hammer. The agenda for the session was reduced significantly in view of the shortened time span of only six days with less than three hours per meeting. The issue of containership fires on which IUMI co-sponsored a proposal for a new output was therefore postponed to MSC 103 or MSC 104.


Crew change crisis and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

As the most pressing concern, the Committee approved a circular to include the industry-developed protocols which set out measures and procedures designed to ensure that ship crew changes can take place safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the most urgent issue on the agenda given the plight seafarers around the globe face by being unable to return home and to their families. In this regard, the Committee also agreed that a Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) module should be developed to register ports that facilitate crew changes and disseminate information provided by Member States regarding those ports, to enable shipping companies to easily plan and organise crew changes during the pandemic. The IMO Secretariat will take the necessary steps to launch the new module, which will also include contact details of national crew change focal points, by the end of the year. On other matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee approved an MSC circular on unified interpretation of SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10 concerning the term "unforeseen delay in delivery of ships" during the pandemic.


Interim guidelines for second generation intact stability criteria approved

The MSC approved interim guidelines for second generation intact stability criteria, having worked on them for over two decades. Mandatory criteria and recommended provisions regarding intact stability are set out in IMO's 2008 Intact Stability (IS) Code, which is mandatory under the SOLAS Convention and the 1988 Load Lines Protocol. Advanced computer technology and intensive research have enabled "second generation" intact stability criteria to be developed, for a comprehensive safety assessment of ship dynamics in waves. The interim guidelines address vulnerability criteria, direct stability failure assessment and operational measures and contain performance-based criteria for assessing five dynamic stability failure modes in waves:

  • dead ship condition,
  • excessive acceleration,
  • pure loss of stability,
  • parametric rolling,
  • surf-riding/broaching.

The reference to "second generation" derives from the fact that they are principally based on first principles and latest technology, as opposed to predominant use of casualty records which form the basis of the mandatory intact stability criteria.


Amendments to the CSS Code

The Committee also approved amendments to the Code of Safe Practice for Cargo Stowage and Securing (CSS Code) related to weather-dependent lashing, heavy cargo items and semi-standardised cargoes such as vehicles on ro-ro ships. The CSS Code is the IMO guideline for cargo lashing principles for non-standardised cargoes, meaning everything except containers and bulk cargoes.


Revision of the guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance

The Committee considered options for faster progress and approval of the revision of the guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance. In order to achieve the adoption of the revised guidelines in 2021, the Committee authorised the Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) Sub-Committee to submit the revised guidelines to MEPC and the Legal Committee (LEG) for concurrent approval, with a view to subsequent adoption by the IMO Assembly.


Safety measures for non-SOLAS ships operating in polar waters

MSC 98 had agreed to develop safety measures for non-SOLAS ships operating in polar waters and that the types of ships to be considered in the development of such safety measures were fishing vessels, pleasure yachts above 300 GT not engaged in trade and cargo ships below 500 GT down to 300 GT. Some final specifics with regard to the correctness of the terminology used and to identify any conflicts of the text with existing IMO instruments still need to be undertaken by the Human element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) Sub-Committee. This work should lead up to consideration for approval of the draft guidelines by MSC 103.

MSC further considered whether safety guidelines should also be developed for pleasure yachts of 300 GT and above but less than 500 GT engaged in trade (commercial yachts), and for cargo ships of 300 GT and above but less than 500 GT. It was agreed that guidance for such ships should be developed. Consequently, the Committee instructed the Ship Design and Construction (SDC) Sub-Committee to carry out this work under the existing output on ʺSafety measures for non-SOLAS ships operating in polar watersʺ.