Summary of the 104th session of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee

By Lars Lange, IUMI Secretary-General

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee held its 104th Session (MSC 104) from 4-8 October 2021, once again virtually with a small share of delegates physically attending at the IMO building in London. The meeting was chaired by Ms Mayte Medinah (United States) and her Vice-Chair, Mr Theofilos Mozas (Greece). Both were re-elected for 2022. IUMI’s representatives Lars Lange and Hendrike Kühl were in attendance.



A central point on the agenda was a discussion about a draft Assembly resolution to address the COVID-19 crew change crisis, access to medical care, ʺkey workerʺ designation and seafarers’ prioritisation for the COVID-19 vaccination. The draft resolution was approved with a view to adoption at the 32nd session of the IMO Assembly in December 2021.


Piracy and armed robbery against ships and other illicit maritime activity

The MSC approved a draft update of an Assembly resolution on the prevention and suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships and illicit activity in the Gulf of Guinea. The resolution has been submitted to the 32nd session of the Assembly for adoption.

The Committee noted that 83 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported in the first six months of 2021, amounting to a decrease of approximately 23% at the global level compared to the same period last year. The areas most affected by acts of piracy and armed robbery during that time were West Africa (27), the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (23) and the South China Sea (12). The number of incidents in the Gulf of Guinea (West Africa) decreased in the first half of 2021 by five compared to the same period in 2020, a decrease of 16%.

The Committee also considered the update on the review of the extent of the Somali piracy high risk area (HRA), revisions to the area, and envisioned next steps to develop a more dynamic threat assessment process as proposed in a paper submitted by industry associations. The industry group and appropriate bodies were invited to continue their work with regional stakeholders and to report on progress to MSC 105.


New outputs:

  1. Autonomous ships

The Committee agreed to develop a goal-based instrument for maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS). This follows the completion of the regulatory scoping exercise (RSE) in May 2021 which analysed relevant conventions in order to assess how MASS could be regulated internationally. The MSC included a new output on “Development of a goal-based instrument for maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS)”, with a target completion year of 2025. The Committee agreed that the MASS Working Group should be re-established, starting at MSC 105. 

Having agreed that the first step in the work on the new output would be the finalisation of a road map, the Committee requested the Chair to prepare, together with the Secretariat, a draft roadmap, including scope, steps and timelines, as well as the coordination of work with other IMO bodies, and submit this to MSC 105 for detailed consideration.


  1. Remote surveys 

In view of the growing use of remote surveys during the COVID-19 pandemic, several submissions to MSC 104 proposed this topic to be addressed by the Committee. MSC agreed to include a new output on the "Development of guidance on assessments and applications of remote surveys, ISM Code audits and ISPS Code verifications", in the biennial agenda of the III Sub-Committee for 2022-2023 with a target completion year of 2024. 

Due to time constraints in light of the shorter meeting time available for the remote meetings, the Committee was not able to consider any other proposals for new outputs submitted to this session. These have been postponed for discussion at MSC 105 in late April 2022.