9th session of the Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC 9)

By Hendrike Kühl, IUMI Policy Director

The Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC), chaired by Erik Tvedt from Denmark, held its ninth session from 23 to 27 January 2023. Key issues discussed at the meeting included:


Emergency towing arrangements - extension to ships other than tankers  

Draft SOLAS amendments to apply requirements for emergency towing equipment for tankers to other types of ships were agreed, for submission to the next session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) for approval with a view to subsequent adoption. The draft amendments would require emergency towing arrangements to be fitted on ships other than tankers of 20,000 gross tonnage and above. These arrangements make provision for rapid deployment in the absence of main power on the ship to be towed and easy connection to the towing vessel.


Addressing underwater noise from ships

The SDC Sub-Committee agreed upon draft revised guidelines for reducing underwater noise from commercial shipping addressing adverse impacts on marine life. The draft guidelines recognise that commercial shipping is one of the main contributors to underwater radiated noise (URN). URN has adverse effects on the critical life functions for a wide range of marine life, including marine mammals, fish and invertebrate species, upon which many coastal Indigenous communities depend for their food, livelihoods and cultures.

The draft revised guidelines give an overview of approaches designers, shipbuilders and ship operators can apply to reduce the underwater radiated noise of any given ship. They are intended to assist relevant stakeholders in establishing mechanisms and programmes to realise noise reduction efforts. The draft guidelines will now be submitted for approval to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 80), which will meet from 3 to 7 July 2023.

A correspondence group was re-established to address the remaining work under the agenda item and will report to SDC 10 in January 2024. The Sub-Committee also agreed on a work plan which envisages, among other things, identifying ways to implement the revised guidelines and increase awareness and uptake. This includes organising an expert workshop on potential co-benefits and trade-offs that may exist between the reduction of underwater radiated noise from ships and energy efficiency; and developing a plan of action for further work.

The revised draft guidelines include a reference to Inuit Nunaat, saying that, in Inuit Nunaat, a number of characteristics of the region and the activities within could increase the impacts from underwater radiated noise. This includes the potential for icebreaking activities, the presence of noise-sensitive species, and potential interference with indigenous hunting rights. Additional efforts to decrease the effects on marine wildlife are advisable for ships operating in these areas, including particular attention to reducing the noise impact from icebreaking and implementing operational approaches and monitoring. 

A complete report of the meeting is available, LINK here.