Summary of the 7th session of the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR 7)

By Hendrike Kühl, IUMI Policy Director

The 7th session of the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) met from 15-24 January 2020 at the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) headquarters under the chairmanship of Mr Ringo Lakeman from the Netherlands. The Sub-Committee addresses all aspects of safety of navigation, reliable communications and improved coordination to avoid maritime accidents; and ensuring a quick and efficient response in case of a search and rescue incident. Key issues discussed at the meeting included:

Polar Code application to non-SOLAS ships

IMO's Polar Code helps ensure the safety of ships operating in the harsh Arctic and Antarctic areas, taking into account extremes of temperature, and that critical equipment remains operational under those conditions.

The 31st IMO Assembly in 2019 adopted a resolution urging Member States to implement, on a voluntary basis, the safety measures of the Polar Code on non-SOLAS ships operating in the Arctic and Antarctic, including fishing vessels of 24m in length and above and pleasure yachts of 300 gross tonnes and above not engaged in trade.

While the Polar Code is mandatory under SOLAS, this generally excludes fishing vessels, pleasure yachts, smaller cargo ships under 500 gross tonnes and vessels on domestic voyages. Consideration is now being given to the possible application of chapters 9 (Safety of navigation) and 11 (Voyage planning) of the Polar Code to non-SOLAS ships and how best to enhance the safety of these ships when operating in polar waters.

A correspondence group was established to continue this work intersessionally and report back to NCSR 8 in 2021.

Revision of guidelines on places of refuge

The Sub-Committee considered a proposed revision to the guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance which were adopted in 2003. They provide guidance when a ship is in need of assistance but safety of life is not involved (when safety of life is involved, SAR provisions should be followed). Following initial discussions in a working group, a correspondence group was established to further develop the draft text and consider what issues should be brought to the attention of the Marine Environment Protection and Legal Committees for their consideration and input.

IUMI participates in the correspondence group and co-sponsored a paper which sets out a preliminary draft structure and revision of the guidelines. The objective of the review is to make the guidance clearer, up to date and more operational, ensuring that they continue to serve as an effective instrument for all parties involved in handling a ship in need of assistance seeking a place of refuge.

A complete report of the meeting is available HERE.