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Press Release

IMO Maritime Safety Committee progresses broad agenda

Maritime Safety Committee - 85th session: 26 November - 5 December 2008

Piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, the Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) system, the development of goal-based standards for new ship construction and the adoption of amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) were among the items at the top of the agenda during an 8-day meeting of IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC). The MSC held its 85th session, at the Organization's London Headquarters, from 26 November to 5 December 2008.

Piracy and armed robbery against ships
A lengthy discussion was held on the escalation in reported acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coast of Somalia. The MSC expressed its support for various initiatives being undertaken, including action by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), in particular the adoption of UNSC Resolution 1846, extending for another twelve months, from 2 December 2008, the authorization for States and regional organizations to enter Somalia's territorial waters and to use "all necessary means" to repress acts of piracy and armed robbery in these waters.

The Committee also welcomed information regarding the planned high-level meeting convened by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Somalia in Nairobi on 10 and 11 December. It was announced that an IMO-led high level, sub regional meeting for States from the Western Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea areas, is to be held in Djibouti, from 26 to 29 January 2009. This meeting will consider a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for regional co-operation to enhance maritime security and combat piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden area, and a draft regional agreement concerning the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the wider Western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden area.

The Committee expressed its thanks to those Governments which had provided warships to protect World Food Programme (WFP) ships and patrol the waters off the coast of Somalia, and to their crews, and to those other Governments which are considering similar actions.

The Committee instructed a correspondence group, tasked with the revision of guidance on the prevention and suppression of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, to consider the need for guidance to seafarers should they be attacked, fired upon, kidnapped or held hostage. The group was also instructed to discuss proposals on practical measures to enhance the safety and security of merchant ships against attack and to examine the carriage of firearms or armed personnel on board such vessels.

It was noted that the number of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships reported to the Organization in the first nine months of 2008 (1 January to 30 September) was 214, against 213 in the first nine months of 2007. Although the overall number of reported acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships during the period under review was virtually unchanged, the decrease in the number of incidents in most areas of the world had been negated by the sharp increase in both number and severity of attacks in waters off the coast of Somalia.

During the period under review, seven crew members were killed, 20 crew members were reportedly injured or assaulted, more than 430 crew members were reportedly taken hostage or kidnapped and 29 ships were hijacked, largely off the coast of Somalia. The Committee urged all Governments and the shipping industry to intensify and coordinate their efforts to eradicate these unlawful acts.

Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT)
The MSC reviewed progress on the implementation of the LRIT system, which is intended to be operational, with respect to the transmission of LRIT information by ships, from 30 December 2008.

Two resolutions were adopted, one appointing the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) as the LRIT Coordinator and one on Operation of the International LRIT Data Exchange, which agrees that the United States should continue to provide the International LRIT Data Exchange on an interim basis until 31 December 2011, while a permanent solution is sought.

The Committee approved an MSC Circular providing guidance on the application of the mandatory SOLAS provisions concerning the global LRIT system, from 31 December 2008, as well as a number of other circulars relating to the technical specifications of the LRIT system and its establishment and utilization, such as for search and rescue purposes.

Protocols and arrangements for the prototype, development, integration and modification testing phases of the LRIT system were also approved. It was agreed that the ad hoc LRIT Group would meet before the next session of the MSC to review outstanding issues relating to the full establishment of the LRIT system.

SOLAS regulation V/19-1 on LRIT entered into force on 1 January 2008 and will apply to ships constructed on or after 31 December 2008, with a phased implementation schedule for ships constructed before 31 December 2008.

Goal-based new ship construction standards
Substantial progress was made in developing goal-based standards (GBS) for the construction of new bulk carriers and oil tankers. Draft SOLAS amendments to make GBS mandatory for such new ships were agreed, as were the draft international goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers, with a view to approval at MSC 86, in May 2009, and eventual adoption at MSC 87, in 2010.

The MSC also further developed the proposed draft Guidelines for the verification of compliance with GBS and draft Guidelines for the information to be included in a Ship Construction File, and agreed to work towards finalizing them at MSC 86.

Measures to enhance maritime security
The MSC approved an MSC circular on Non-mandatory guidelines on security aspects of the operation of vessels that do not fall within the scope of SOLAS chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code.

International Code on Intact Stability, 2008 (2008 IS Code)
The International Code on Intact Stability, 2008 (2008 IS Code), and amendments to the SOLAS Convention and to the 1988 Load Lines Protocol to make the Code mandatory, were adopted, and an MSC circular on Early application of the International Code on Intact Stability, 2008 (2008 IS Code), to encourage its implementation, was approved. The amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 July 2010.

The 2008 IS Code provides, in a single document, both mandatory requirements and recommended provisions relating to intact stability, taking into account technical developments, in particular regarding the dynamic stability phenomena in waves, based on state-of-the-art concepts. The Code's mandatory status, under both the SOLAS Convention and the 1988 Load Lines Protocol, will significantly influence the design and the overall safety of ships.

International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code)
The International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code), and amendments to SOLAS chapter VI to make the Code mandatory, were adopted. The amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2011. The IMSBC Code will replace the Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code), which was first adopted as a recommendatory code in 1965 and has been updated at regular intervals since then.

The aim of the mandatory IMSBC Code is to facilitate the safe stowage and shipment of solid bulk cargoes by providing information on the dangers associated with the shipment of certain types of cargo and instructions on the appropriate procedures to be adopted.

Other issues
The MSC considered and took action on other issues arising from the reports of Sub-Committees and other bodies, as follows:

 -a number of proposals on ships' routeing, ship reporting and other relevant measures, all aimed at enhancing the safety of navigation in areas of identified navigational hazards and environmentally sensitive sea areas, were adopted;
 -draft amendments to SOLAS regulation V/19 to make mandatory the carriage of Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) and Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm Systems (BNWAS), under SOLAS chapter V, were approved, with a view to their adoption by MSC 86 in May 2009;
 -a strategy for the development and implementation of e-navigation, including a framework for its implementation and a timeframe for the process, was approved; and
 -a resolution on Clarification of the term "bulk carrier" and guidance for application of regulations in SOLAS to ships which occasionally carry dry cargoes in bulk and are not determined as bulk carriers in accordance with regulation XII/1.1 and chapter II-1, to clarify the definition of "bulk carrier", was adopted.


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IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

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